Gwinnett case led to far-reaching tax fraud investigation

One of the largest tax preparer fraud investigations in recent Georgia history started with allegations that a relative stole a Gwinnett County couple’s $109,000 retirement account.

The 2014 criminal case involving allegations lodged by David Bass against his sister-in-law, Ruth Barr, garnered public attention when Barr was elected to the Hapeville City Council last November.

The day after her election, Barr was indicted for theft by a grand jury and the case is scheduled for trial later this month.

“I want her held accountable for everything she did to my father,” said Leslie Bass-Tovar, Bass’s daughter and Ruth Barr’s niece. “I want to see her go to jail. I want to see her in jail.”

Bass was sick and in the hospital in late 2013 when Barr convinced him and his wife, Helen, to hand over the retirement funds for a real estate investment. But that investment never happened and months later, when Bass went to the bank, he realized Barr deposited the money in her personal account, records show.

Bass died eight weeks after he learned his money was gone. The stress from the loss of that money filled his final weeks with turmoil, Bass-Tovar said. It took more than a year for an indictment to come down, but Bass-Tovar kept pressing her family’s case with investigators.

Because Barr is an elected official and has served on-and-off the Hapeville City Council over the past two decades, her arrest made news. Reporters for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News started investigating her history this year and the track record of her tax preparer’s business, B & B Accounting and Tax Services.

Following a recent court appearance in Gwinnett, Barr walked away when asked questions about the dispute with her family and other allegations.

“It is a family matter, basically, and it’s a family that got upset over something that shouldn’t have been upset over,” she said.

Reporters uncovered a trail of fraud and victims who had filed complaints or lawsuits against Barr for past problems. The Georgia Department of Revenue opened a criminal investigation following reporters’ questions and that investigation has now uncovered thousands of questionable tax returns prepared by Barr’s company.

Those returns may have cost the state millions in unjustified refunds. And thousands of taxpayers who were Barr’s clients may now be on the hook for back taxes. A criminal investigation by the state could result in charges against Barr and thousands of dollars in fines if they find fraud.

Bass-Tovar said the family was surprised by how far-reaching Barr’s schemes appeared to be and are concerned about all of those who Barr may have harmed.

“I find her quite despicable and untrustworthy and shady,” Bass-Tovar said. “This case has just solidified that for me…But I suppose things can’t stay hidden forever.”

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