Mattox now facing 27 misdemeanor charges of theft by deception
The Blackshear Police Department arrested Leesa Mattox, owner of L & M Bookkeeping and Tax Service on Main Street, at her Bacon County home Thursday evening.
She’s charged with 27 misdemeanor counts of theft by deception, but more charges are reportedly pending as the investigation continues. Mattox has been released on bail.
Mattox’s arrest followed BPD’s execution of a search warrant at L & M Thursday afternoon where investigators removed five or six filing cabinets of documents. Many of those documents reportedly belong to locals whose tax returns were allegedly never filed by Mattox.
Mattox relinquished any other records in her possession upon her arrest.
Dozens have filed incident reports with BPD since finding L & M locked up tight on Tax Day last month. After repeated attempts to confirm whether their returns had been filed or to retrieve their documents for filing elsewhere, a number of the firm’s clients gathered at the Main Street office April 15 looking for answers.
BPD has had an open investigation into the matter for months, but Police Chief Chris Wright says investigators thought the matter was resolved in March — until the police department and Sheriff’s office were flooded with calls on Tax Day.
Victims’ reports have been consistent, Wright adds.
Customers dropped off their returns in January or February and were unable to confirm if their taxes had been filed, and could not reach Mattox to retrieve their documents after numerous attempts to contact L & M.
The list of potential victims in this case continues to grow. BPD reported 70 cases Tuesday morning (May 14) and more kept coming in. The sheriff’s office has been taking reports as well and is coordinating their investigation with BPD.
“We’ve probably fielded about as many calls about that as they have,” says Sheriff Ramsey Bennett.
A master list of names of people whose returns were never filed or who were unable to retrieve their documents for filing elsewhere is being compiled at Blackshear PD. Anyone who may be a victim in this case should call Blackshear Police Dept. at 912-449-7011 or the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office at 912-449-2011 to file a report and be added to that list.
Wright urges those who spoke with the department early on in this investigation who may be unsure if a report was filed on their behalf, to also call and confirm their name is on the list of potential victims.
To date, incident reports have been filed by former L&M clients as far away as Hazlehurst and in other neighboring counties, Wright says.
Investigators are using that master list of names as they comb through records this week to verify victims’ claims.
Georgia’s “best evidence” law requires the department maintain original documents during the investigation and potential litigation of this case, but Wright says copies of tax documents should be available to former clients of Mattox today, May 15, at the police department.
Victims will need to bring a photo identification and proof of their Social Security number to pick up copies of their tax documents.
Wright also assures a person’s tax records are not subject to open records law and no one’s personal information will be released to anyone other than the owner.
Local investigators are coordinating this investigation with the Internal Revenue Service. The public can contact the Taxpayer Assistance Office in Jacksonville or Savannah for more information regarding the status of their tax return.