Lowndes Co. fraud operation busted - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Lowndes Co. fraud operation busted


Investigators break up a major identity theft and tax fraud ring. Lowndes County Deputies and the FBI searched two Valdosta homes Monday. They found stolen personal information from at least 1,500 people during a raid on Lausanne Street.

Officers charged Belinda Harris with three counts of felony identity fraud.

Lowndes County Sheriff's investigators say South Georgia is the second worst region in the country for committing tax fraud. Harris's neighbor Willie Martin says he's shocked it was happening in his neighborhood. "She didn't bother anybody, and she and I got along real well," he said.

Neighbors say this is a quiet neighborhood and they had no idea this was going on on their own street.

Aaron Casey was also charged for possession of marijuana. The lead investigator on the case, whose face we could not show, says the scammers were making up to $9,000 per fraudulent tax return.

"They would fill out a 10-40 online and submit that in the consumer victims name and either inflate the amount of money that was earned that year, fabricate a job that person had that year, and enter in completely made up information of a person's identity that they stole," said an investigator we could not name. 

Investigators say the suspects paid unemployed people to use their information. But they also think scammers worked with people at businesses in the area to steal the personal information of unsuspecting victims.

Investigators believe the crooks have been doing this for the past two tax seasons. 

Until the Secret Service finishes examining the Belinda Harris's computer, investigators will not know exactly how many people were affected.


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