Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Former DeKalb tax supervisor pleads guilty to accepting bribes

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A former supervisor in the DeKalb County Tax Commissioner’s office pleaded guilty Tuesday to accepting bribes in return for illegally registering vehicles and trying to blackmail one of his bribers.

Gerald D. Harris, 51, accepted nearly $30,000 in bribe payments between mid-2018 and November 2019, according to a press release from U.S. Attorney BJay Pak.

After Harris was fired from the DeKalb tax office for accepting bribes, he tried to blackmail one of his bribers for additional cash by threatening to hand them over to the FBI. The U.S. Attorney’s release did not include any further information about the blackmail victim.

“By repeatedly accepting bribe payments, Harris peddled his honor for money and in doing so sold out the citizens of DeKalb County — sometimes for as little as $100 per car,” Pak said. “By then attempting to blackmail one of his bribe payers, Harris showed his seemingly limitless greed.”

According to U.S. Department of Justice officials, Harris accepted bribe payments on a sliding scale depending on the legal requirements he skirted. For $100, he would renew registrations for vehicles that had not passed emissions inspections.

For about $200, he would register vehicles to people who did not have Georgia driver’s licenses. And for bribes ranging from $500-$1,000 per vehicle, Harris would register cars that did not have proper documentation, such as titles or title/tag applications.

“I applaud the swift effort of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies in bringing this case to a quick resolve,” DeKalb County Tax Commissioner Irvin J. Johnson said in the release.

“The DeKalb County Tax Commissioner’s Office remains committed to safeguarding the trust of DeKalb’s taxpayers and weeding out individuals who act unlawfully in any way.”

A date for Harris’ sentencing hearing was not announced.

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