State unfair to Ruth Barr amid fraud investigation, attorneys say

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State Department of Revenue's chief investigator Josh Waites arrests Hapeville City Councilwoman Ruth Barr on Jan. 11, 2017. The arrest on a perjury charge is part of a state fraud investigation into Barr's tax preparer's business. Credit: WSB-TV

Attorneys for embattled tax preprarer Ruth Barr say the state is being unfair to their client, who is alleged to have defrauded the state of millions of dollars through thousands of suspicious tax returns.

Channel 2 Action News interviewed Barr’s attorneys and reported Wednesday that her legal team said the thousands of clients who went to Barr’s south Fulton business are responsible for not reviewing their returns she prepared

Her attorneys say the state is the treating their client unfairly for trying to shut her business down amid a criminal investigation.

The state probe followed an Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Channel 2 investigation last year into the Hapeville city councilwoman that identified a trail of victims and fraud allegations by former or current clients.

The state arrested her in January and charged her with perjury and filed an injunction to prevent her from preparing taxes amid their criminal investigation. A judge this month declined the state’s request and Barr continues to operate her business with her daughter, Anne Barr Cruz.

Her attorneys told Channel 2 this week that her clients have a responsibility to review returns filed electronically and they are legally responsible for their returns.

They argue that the state has run a sloppy investigation and are seeking to get the state to cease its effort to shut Barr down.

“Even if everything the Department of Revenue is doing stops today, there’s a negative impact on this business that will take years to recover from,” said attorney Jeffrey Allen, who is on Barr’s legal team.

In most states, including Georgia, anyone can become a tax preparer. There’s no certification or professional requirements that govern who can prepare taxes. Consumer advocates say this is a huge problem that places the consumers at risk and creates an opening for fraud.

Liz Coyle, executive director of Georgia Watch, says “it’s absolutely crazy” that the tax preparer industry is unregulated.

Georgia Watch executive director Liz Coyle said any argument that Barr is a victim seems to forget the trail of people who say she violated their trust or took their money.

“I’m sorry I feel no sympathy” for Barr, Coyle said. “Clearly her customers feel they were harmed by her practices. They are the ones that have been truly harmed.”

Barr moved her Hapeville

 


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