Ex-DeKalb supervisor charged with bribery and blackmail

A now-former supervisor in the DeKalb County Tax Commissioner’s Office has been charged with bribery and blackmail, the United States Attorney’s Office in Atlanta announced Monday.

Gerald D. Harris, 51, is accused of accepting at least $30,000 in bribe payments to illegally register vehicles for customers. Harris is also accused of asking one bribe-payer to give him even more money -- to guarantee Harris wouldn’t talk to the FBI about the other person’s involvement.

“Harris traded his integrity for money and betrayed the trust of the citizens of DeKalb County by allegedly accepting bribe payments,” U.S. Attorney BJay Pak said in a news release. “Then, in an audacious display of bravado, Harris attempted to blackmail one of those bribe payers.”

According to authorities, Harris oversaw clerks who processed motor vehicle registrations and renewals at the DeKalb Tax Commissioner’s office near Brookhaven  from July 2017 to Nov. 2019. He allegedly accepted bribes from customers -- including those without a valid driver’s license and those whose vehicles had failed emissions tests -- from  about mid-2018 until his departure.

Harris’ “fees” allegedly ranged from $100 to $1,000.

The tax commissioner’s office fired Harris on Nov. 18, the same day he allegedly confessed to FBI agents that he had accepted more than $30,000 in exchange for registering or renewing vehicles for “several people.”

A few weeks later, Harris purportedly met at an Atlanta gas station with a person identified by authorities only as “Individual 1.” The individual did not know Harris had been fired and, according to authorities, provided him with the documentation and money necessary to have four vehicles registered.

A few days later, Individual 1 asked for his documents and money back. Harris sent text messages saying he was under investigation by the FBI and that the agency had video of Harris and Individual 1 meeting.

According to authorities, Harris asked ‘how much’ money he would be paid to not share more information with the FBI, adding that he would “not be going to prison empty-handed.

The FBI, DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, Georgia Department of Revenue, and DeKalb County Tax Commissioner’s Office investigated the case.

Harris was charged with one count each of federal program bribery and blackmail.

“I am pleased to see that charges have been brought in this case,” DeKalb Tax Commissioner Irvin Johnson said in the news release. “Since our staff uncovered this illegal activity, we’ve continued to work closely with the authorities for months to assist in the investigation of Mr. Harris. Protecting the integrity of our operation and the interest of DeKalb taxpayers is our top priority.”