Agents: Men collected $134K in fraudulent tax returns

by: Tony Thomas Updated:

COBB COUNTY, Ga. - Georgia authorities say they've busted a small ring that allegedly stole identities then filed bogus tax returns.

Two men are accused of pocketing $134,000 in refunds they weren't supposed to receive.

State Revenue and Georgia Bureau of Investigations agents arrested Justin Harrison and Hakeem Hopkins at an apartment on Windy Hill Road in Cobb County.

"I never suspected anything about these guys," said neighbor Salvador Hernandez. "Sometimes I was thinking he was working on a good job. To get a nice car like that you've got to make a lot of money."

Hernandez said Harrison drove a 2011 BMW around the neighborhood all the time.

State agents said they've been investigating Harrison for months after noting 130 tax returns under different names were all being sent to the same apartment.

Georgia Revenue Commissioner Doug MacGinnitie said investigators believe Harrison stole or bought the names and Social Security numbers of unsuspecting victims, then created tax returns in their names.

An arrest warrant affidavit shows in one case, Harrison cashed a checked at a Cobb Parkway Walmart under what could have been a fake name.

"Tax fraud is a big problem here in Georgia," MacGinnitie said. "What we've seen, is people file hundreds of these, a certain percentage gets through and they cash those checks and that money is very hard to get back."

MacGinnitie said new programs are in place to catch a big chunk of the fraud that is attempted. He says his department stopped $100 million worth of suspected fraudulent returns last year, but some still get through.

In this case, the fraud was believed to have been conducted in 2011 -- before the new programs and computer checks began.

"All the things a person needs to try and do it is a computer, a list of names, a list of social security numbers and an Internet connection," MacGinnitie said.

Both Harrison and Hopkins were booked into the Cobb County Detention Center. Harrison faces one count of forgery and is being held on no bond.

Hopkins faces a count of identity theft and has a $3,000 bond. Investigators expect to file many more charges as their probe continues.

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