Crime & Safety

Owner of Fake Georgia Charitable Organizations Charged in Federal Court

The individual accused of owning several illegitimate charitable organizations in Georgia has been charged in federal court and already agreed to plead guilty.

Taressa Hightower, 60, of Grayson, Ga., was charged with two counts of filing false tax returns and will plead to filing false tax returns.

According to court documents and the U.S. Department of Justice, Hightower ran two non-profit organizations that purported to serve underprivileged kids in the Atlanta, Ga. area.

From the news release:

From approximately 2010 to 2015, Hightower received more than $650,000 in ostensible donations from a bank in Boston – where Palestine Ace, the wife of Hightower’s family member Jonathan Ace, worked. In reality, the monies Hightower was receiving as purported donations were the proceeds of a separate embezzlement scheme carried out by Palestine and Jonathan Ace. As a condition of receiving these “donations,” Hightower agreed to return approximately 25% to Palestine and Jonathan Ace as a secret kickback. 

Rather than use the funds for charitable purposes, Hightower spent the majority on personal expenses unrelated to any charity work. For tax years 2013 and 2014, Hightower filed false personal and organizational tax returns in connection with the purported donations. Each year, Hightower reported significant amounts of non-existent and/or inflated business expenses, which ultimately lowered her personal tax liability. 

In 2018, Palestine and Jonathan Ace were convicted of embezzlement and were sentenced to one years and two years in prison, respectively.

Hightower faces a sentence of up to three years in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of $250,000, however, a plea hearing has not yet been scheduled by the court. 

A number of individuals and agencies are assisting with this case, including the U.S. Attorneys Office, the FBI, the IRS, and the Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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