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Details emerge in fraud case

Annette Ford

Annette Ford

DULUTH — More than half of the 6,000 or so names and Social Security numbers seized during the investigation of a large-scale fraud ring were those of metro Atlanta residents, police said.

Duluth police detective Fran Foster, who is leading the case, recently provided disturbing new details in the case of Annette Denise Ford, arrested April 14 after the search for stolen checks led authorities to her Suwanee home.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” Foster said, “and I can tell you I was taken aback at the amount and how it was laying out all over the place.”

• In addition to the $172,640 in cash allegedly found at Ford’s home, Foster said Chase Bank has also reported an actual loss of $248,000 from Ford’s actions.

• More than 6,000 names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers were found strewn about the Gathering Place home, more than half of which are tied to metro Atlanta residents. Information for several deceased people was found.

• Documents showing 298 fraudulently filed tax returns were found in the home. Roughly half were 2010 returns, and 75 percent of that half targeted Korean victims, Foster said.

“They hit the Korean community pretty hard,” she said.

• Ford frequently used single identities to file multiple tax return claims as well as amended returns for earned income credit, police said. She even had the letters from the IRS “telling the victims” that they had already filed.

The victims never got those documents, because they were sent to Ford.

“The actual victims never knew that this was happening until they went to file their taxes and realized they couldn’t,” Foster said.

• Police said they found “boxes upon boxes” of stolen or copied mortgage documents dating back as far as 1997. Foster and other authorities later discovered that Ford’s husband, Sylvester Ford, was formerly a mortgage writer.

Ford even used her mother’s identity to get the lease on the house where the documents were found, Foster said.

• Ford said she owned and operated a “check-cashing” business dubbed ePro Tax Service. The Department of Banking and Finance has no record of her being registered to cash checks, police said.

“That company is a bogus front for the fraud that she was committing,” Foster said.

According to police, Ford is a former real estate broker who had her license revoked from the Real Estate Commission for stealing escrow money. The Department of Labor has no records of the 47-year-old having a job since 1996, Foster said, leading authorities to believe she may have been committing fraud for a long time.

“This is a huge travesty of justice that’s been done to the taxpayers of the United States,” Foster said.

Despite the scope, Foster said no federal agency has taken up the case on behalf of the Duluth Police Department. With a small staff, that leads her as the lone investigator working the case.

The scary part is, Foster said, if Ford really was just a “check-casher” in an illegal ring with a typical 10 percent cut, the $400,000 found in her home could be just the tip of a multi-million dollar identity theft monster.

“I would think everybody would be chomping at the bit for that case,” Foster said.