Fulton councilwoman gets 5 years for conning dying Gwinnett relative

Hapeville city councilwoman Ruth Barr was found guilty Wednesday of conning more than $100,000 from a dying relative.

Following the verdict from a Gwinnett County jury, Judge Melodie Snell Conner sentenced Barr to serve five years in prison. She was taken directly to jail.

The south Fulton County city of Hapeville, meanwhile, is “pursuing any available options under the law regarding [Barr’s] tenure in office,” city manager William R. Whitson said.

“The city will have additional comments at a later point in time once we have had an opportunity to evaluate and assess all the information related to this case,” Whitson wrote in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Gwinnett case against Barr — whose tax preparation business is also the subject of a sprawling state investigation — involved a 2013 transaction with her sister and dying brother-in-law. 

According to authorities, the couple, Gwinnett residents Helen and David Bass, gave Barr more than $109,000 in retirement funds while he was sick in the hospital. Barr, 62, purportedly vowed to use the money to create an IRA account, the proceeds of which the Basses would use to buy a new home.

Taxpayer after taxpayer told investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer they thought they could trust Ruth Barr.

The investment was never made and the Basses later discovered Barr had deposited the money into her personal business checking account. Records showed Barr later wrote checks to herself and made at least one large cash withdrawal from the account.

She spent the entire sum in less than 30 days, prosecutors said.

Barr reportedly admitted to taking the money and vowed to pay it back but never did. She was indicted on a single count of theft by taking on Nov. 4, 2015, one day after being elected to Hapeville’s City Council.

The City of Hapeville must now figure out what to do since councilwoman Ruth Barr has been sentenced to five years in prison. (Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office)

The Gwinnett case and a subsequent investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News eventually led the Georgia Department of Revenue to take a closer look at Barr’s tax preparation business, B&B Accounting and Tax Services. 

Barr was arrested in January as part of the state’s investigation, one of the largest it’s ever undertaken. The investigation involves tax returns Barr’s firm prepared for more than 7,700 people.

The sentence Barr received Wednesday in Gwinnett also included 15 years of probation. A restitution hearing will be held in the “near future,” officials from the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office said.

Attempts to contact Barr’s attorney were not immediately successful.

Barr is Hapeville’s alderman at large, a position equivalent to mayor pro tem. 

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