Atlanta couple duped by tax preparer

For years, Margaret Turner and her husband, William, trusted Hapeville City councilwoman Ruth Barr to do their personal taxes after a neighbor recommended her and touted Barr’s ability to get refunds. The office seemed packed with clients and the waits could be long, but they liked Barr’s work so much that William Turner eventually hired her to prepare taxes for his law practice.

But after years, the relationship frayed. An unusually high refund one year caused the Atlanta couple to grow concerned about how Barr’s work “was almost too good to be true” and exposed them to a possible audit that could be costly, William Turner said.

“This is going to blow up one day,” he recalled thinking.

Then in August 2009, Barr convinced Margaret Turner to loan her $10,000 for a grocery store Barr said she planned to open. Margaret made the loan without telling her husband, and a signed promissory note outlined a payment plan with interest.

The store never opened and Barr failed to make the scheduled loan repayments. After a year of Barr ignoring her calls, Margaret told her husband about the loan. He found the idea of a tax preparer soliciting clients for investments to be improper and unethical. He represented his wife in a lawsuit filed in October 2010 against Barr. The suit accused her of fraud, deceit and breach of fiduciary duty.

When Barr agreed to pay the money back, the couple dismissed the lawsuit in March 2011. They now use a licensed CPA to do their taxes and feel more assured with that person’s work. They are concerned someone with Barr’s track record is working as a tax preparer in Georgia.

“I’m pretty good about reading people,” Margaret Turner said. “She didn’t seem like the kind of person who would cheat you. We were fortunate to get our money back.”