UPDATE Thursday 7:45 p.m.: The city of South Fulton confirmed suspicion of more local bank fraud in the investigation into Charles Turner, 18. Officials said Turner had completed fraudulent transactions that ranged from $14,000 to $28 million, telling Channel 2 Action News there's a total of $28 million sitting in the Georgia Department of Revenue.
Two teens from Missouri said they were employed by Turner.
State investigators said a South Fulton County teen set up an elaborate online business scheme to try to steal more than $20 million from the state of Georgia.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr was there as Charles Turner, 18, was arrested in his Riverdale home Thursday morning. He was waiting on a paper check from the State Department of Revenue, per arrangements he unknowingly made with undercover agents.
Last month, a warrant was issued for Turner out of Henry County after he managed to walk away from a SunTrust Bank with $18,000 in cash using a fraudulent check. He also faced a financial fraud arrest in January out of Fulton County.
State investigators arrived at Turner’s home to seize evidence tied to a major state tax fraud investigation.
According to agents, Turner established an online electronics business in 2017. Riverdale X was designed to sell Amazon products for an upcharge, but investigators said all customers got in exchange was compromised bank accounts.
“He told us that he was using a website that would collect payment information and that he was able to get the routing and account and banking information from that website and then use that information to make payments to us, along with his car payment and other payments, as well,” said Josh Waites, chief investigator with the Georgia Department of Revenue.
About three weeks ago, Waites said the DOR began to notice a pattern in how much money Turner was paying the state on a daily basis and how much was being reversed due to fraudulent accounts and insufficient funds.
“He actually set up a business, set up withholding accounts and sales tax accounts and was overpaying by more than $25 million onto those accounts and then requesting refunds for those same amounts to be returned back to him in his personal checking account,” Waites explained.
This week, Turner unknowingly communicated with an investigator posing as a state account manager via email. He told the investigator he was in the United Kingdom, but his accountant would be able to sign for a state return at his business address.
The address led investigators to Turner’s Riverdale home, where he was in the house with his mother and brother.
Turner declined to speak to Carr during his arrest, but his brother told her the family knew nothing about the allegations.
“Did you find it unusual, the amount of money that was coming into the house?” Carr asked.
“I mean, didn’t no money come in here,” Terio Williams, Turner's brother, replied. “I mean, I didn’t get none.”
“Were you all recently able to go on a big vacation?” Carr continued.
“I mean, I been here,” Williams said. “We didn’t know nothing. Surprised like y’all.”
Turner’s mother declined to speak. She had to come out of the home to move one of four cars in the driveway so a tow truck could access vehicles.
Agents said Turner paid for one in cash and the other with a bad check. The latter was being returned to CarMax after the seizure and search.
The ongoing state investigation will focus on how many potential online victims were compromised doing business with Turner, as well as his alleged attempts to access state funds.
“Unfortunately, in the past, we’ve seen people younger than him, from all walks of life, just not to this extent,” Waites said, referring to the nature of the investigation. “We did not lose any money in this scheme, which is a testament to the hard work of the people in the department.”
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