At the judge’s request, Charles Turner’s mother described her 19-year-old son’s behavior, and addressed him dropping out of the 11th grade, as he sat handcuffed next to a public defender.
“Pretty good child. Really smart,” Tinya Perdue said Thursday.
“Why didn’t he finish school?” asked Magistrate Judge Claire Jones.
“I have no idea,” Perdue answered.
It’s the first time we’re hearing from Perdue, whose son has made national headlines since being charged as the mastermind behind an attempt to defraud the State of Georgia out of $28 million in a tax refund scam.
Turner didn’t get a dime before investigators detected his online overpayment of withholdings tied to his own business, but the South Fulton County teen’s digital savvy and additional alleged fraud became a matter of concern for Jones, as she considered reducing his bond following a probable cause hearing Tuesday.
“Now you’re aware that your son has other schemes, taking money from other people’s accounts to pay for things, which as ridiculous as it sound, shows he’s an intelligent young man,” Jones told Perdue. “But he’s pursuing his intelligence in all the wrong ways.”
During that hearing, Perdue confirmed Turner had been diagnosed with mild depression and displayed troubling behavior at home that she addressed whenever she was not at work.
“He does stay in his room a lot. Locks the door,” Perdue told Jones. “I basically took the lock off, he went and bought another lock.”
Outside the courtroom, Perdue told Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr that she never knew the extent of the fraud allegations, but had encouraged Turner to pursue entrepreneurship.
“As long as it was licensed, I told him, as long as you do it right, Perdue said.
Turner’s Riverdale X Electronics was licensed and registered with the State of Georgia when Department of Revenue agents executed search warrant on his home in December.
They seized his computers and two cars financed by stolen bank account information from Riverdale X clients, according to an undercover DOR agent who testified Tuesday.
“I asked him how many accounts did he access by doing that,” she said. “He said at least a hundred.”
That agent described Turner’s overpayments of withholding taxes through an online system for the DOR. Its fraud unit noticed the frequent, large payments made in a 30-day period.
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“He actually said he did by accident the first time, and he did in the amount of $1,400,” she testified. “From that point, he learned that he could request a refund and that led to him doing it over and over and over.”
“He admitted to everything in the interview,” she said.
But the multi-million dollar payments were returned, as undercover agents communicated with Turner via e-mail about delivering a refund.
He arranged for it to be delivered by certified mail to his mother’s South Fulton County home, where he was met by undercover agents and City of South Fulton police.
Turner was arrested on unrelated forgery warrants out of Henry County, where he was wanted for depositing nearly $70,000 worth of fraudulent checks, and walking away from a Cobb County SunTrust Bank the next day with $18,000 in cash from those deposits.
Last week, that case was dismissed because it was mis-charged as forgery. Turner actually owned the accounts from which the deposit checks originated.
But on Tuesday, public defender Rick Silver confirmed Henry County authorities are expected to re-indict Turner on new charges tied to the case.
Jones agreed to a reduced bond in the state’s case, so Turner has the potential to return home while he awaits trial.
His special conditions include finishing high school or a GED program, attending pre-trial services check-ins each month, undergoing a mental evaluation, maintaining a job and foregoing access to computers unless it’s for educational purposes.
“Will you bond him out?” Carr asked Perdue.
“That’s something I’ll keep to myself,” Perdue said, admitting she’d refused to bond him out earlier in this year. “I told him, 'You do the crime, you do the time.'”