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DeKalb County Tax Commissioner’s Office ex-employee charged with bribery, blackmail

Crime and public safety Metro ATL

DeKalb County Tax Commissioner’s Office ex-employee charged with bribery, blackmail

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A former supervisor in the DeKalb County Tax Commissioner’s Office faces federal bribery and blackmail charges.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office accuses Gerald Harris of taking bribes to unlawfully register vehicles and then blackmailing someone paying a bribe by threatening to turn them over to the FBI.

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

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, from July 2017 to November 2019, Harris worked as the Supervisor of Tax Tag Clerks for the Tax Commissioner’s Office. In that job, he supervised the north office’s clerks responsible for processing motor vehicle registrations and renewals.

The U.S. attorney alleges that from mid-2018 to November 2019, Harris took bribes from people seeking to unlawfully register vehicles or renew their registrations.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Harris took bribes to register individuals who didn’t have a Georgia driver’s license or identification card, charging these individuals $200 per vehicle for this service. He’s accused of registering vehicles that didn’t have the proper documentation for $500 to $1,000 per vehicle. He’s also accused of renewing vehicles that hadn’t passed emissions tests by falsely claiming the vehicles were exempt, usually charging $100 per vehicle for this service.

Harris received about $30,000 in bribes, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

After Harris was terminated in November, he allegedly admitted the scheme to the FBI. But that didn’t stop him from continuing to accept bribes, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. On Dec. 12, he allegedly met with an unnamed individual at an Atlanta gas station. The individual, who didn’t know Harris had been terminated, allegedly gave Harris registration documentation for four vehicles and provided bribes to have them registered. When the registrations didn’t happen, the individual asked for their money and documentation back. Harris allegedly responded by telling the individual he was under investigation by the FBI and was captured on video meeting with the individual. Harris allegedly demanded individual pay him money so he wouldn’t turn them over to the FBI.

DeKalb County Tax Commissioner Irvin Johnson said he was “pleased to see that charges have been brought in this case.”

“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,” Johnson said. “Protecting the integrity of our operation and the interest of DeKalb taxpayers is our top priority. We remain committed to reviewing our procedures and training our staff to detect fraudulent activity and improper behavior. On behalf of DeKalb taxpayers, we thank law enforcement for working quickly and collaboratively to bring this case to justice.”

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