ATLANTA, GEORGIA – Lesbia Lily Gonzalez Moreno and Ailin Michelle Maldonado have been charged with paying bribes to Gerald D. Harris, a former Supervisor in DeKalb County’s Tax Commissioner’s Office, in exchange for Harris unlawfully registering vehicles.
“Moreno and Maldonado allegedly paid multiple bribes to register illegally vehicles without the necessary documentation,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “Whether you offer a bribe or take a bribe, corruption betrays the trust of our citizens in government and will subject you to federal prosecution.”
“When public officials take or pay bribes, they are tarnishing the reputations of every government official,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI and our federal, state and local partners will do everything in our power to arrest and punish those who violate the public’s trust in hopes of restoring it.”
“Bribing government officials in exchange for official acts undermines the government’s integrity and its ability to effectively serve its citizens. Today is the first step in holding Moreno and Maldonado accountable for their actions. The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, along with its law enforcement partners, remains committed to prosecuting anyone who engages in such activity,” said District Attorney Sherry Boston, Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit.
“The Georgia Department of Revenue was proud to assist our federal partners in the course of this investigation. The Department’s Motor Vehicle Division is responsible for motor vehicle tag and title processing and registration statewide. Our duties include ensuring that there is integrity throughout this process and so we will continue to work diligently with both our federal and local partners to enforce the law and maintain the public trust.” David Curry, Georgia State Revenue Commissioner.
“We continue to support the efforts of law enforcement officials to root out illegal and unethical behaviors by persons in positions of public trust,” said DeKalb Tax Commissioner Irvin Johnson. “I applaud the work of our office staff and our partners in law enforcement who quickly isolated this illegal activity and brought those involved to justice.”
According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges, and other information presented in court: the DeKalb County Tax Commissioner’s Office is an agency of DeKalb County, Georgia, responsible for the billing and collection of property taxes, processing of Homestead Exemptions, and collecting delinquent taxes. In addition, the Motor Vehicle Division of the DeKalb County Tax Commissioner’s Office handled all aspects of motor vehicle registrations, including: (a) managing the collection of motor vehicle taxes, (b) issuing vehicle tags and titles, and (c) processing vehicle registration renewals for citizens and businesses located in DeKalb County, Georgia.
From July 2017 to November 2019, Harris served as the Supervisor of Tax Tag Clerks for the DeKalb County Tax Commissioner’s Office. In that position, Harris oversaw the Tax Commissioner North Office’s clerks who processed motor vehicle registrations and renewals for customers. As a supervisor, Harris generally interacted with customers only if a dispute existed between clerks and customers. Similarly, based on his supervisory role, the Motor Vehicle Division did not issue Harris a cash drawer or a credit card terminal, nor was Harris responsible for processing transactions or payments with customers.
From at least May 2019 to November 8, 2019, Moreno and Maldonado repeatedly paid Harris bribe payments to register unlawfully vehicles for owners without presenting a valid Georgia driver’s license or identification card. Under state law, a vehicle owner could not register a vehicle or receive a license plate unless they presented a valid Georgia driver’s license or identification card at the time of application. Nevertheless, in exchange for bribe payments, typically $200 per vehicle, Harris unlawfully registered and obtained license places for owners identified by Moreno and Maldonado. During this period, Moreno and Maldonado each gave Harris thousands of dollars in bribe payments.
On July 14, 2020 Harris pleaded guilty to federal program bribery and blackmail and was sentenced to two years in prison.
Lesbia Lily Gonzalez Moreno, 46, of Atlanta, Georgia, was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Justin S. Anand. Ailin Michelle Maldonado, 24, of Norcross, Georgia, made an initial appearance before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Denver, Colorado. Moreno was indicted by a federal grand jury on nine counts of honest services wire fraud on December 1, 2020. That same day, Maldonado was indicted by a federal grand jury on seven counts of honest services wire fraud in a separate indictment.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges. The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
The FBI, DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, Georgia Department of Revenue, and DeKalb County Tax Commissioner’s Office are investigating this case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Hartigan is prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.