Former tax preparer leaves garage filled with tax records

STANTON, Mich. (WOOD) — A former Cedar Springs tax preparer accused of bilking the government out of millions of dollars has again left taxpayers at risk of identity theft, Target 8 has learned.

A tip led Target 8 to Karol Fitzgerald’s former home in Montcalm County and a garage filled with thousands of pages of tax returns — boxes and boxes. The records include names, addresses, phone numbers and Social Security numbers.

“I can go ahead and pick somebody,” new homeowner Martin Junglas said, picking through a box of the tax records.

“I’ve got his Social Security number,” he said, looking at one man’s file. “I’ve got his phone, address. There’s one, there’s another. He made $24,000.”

Junglas said he bought the home near Stanton in October from Fitzgerald. He said that when he went through the garage, he found them. He even found a tax return for Fitzgerald’s daughter.

“I now have her daughter’s Social Security number, her daughter’s information,” he said.

He said he gave Fitzgerald 90 days to get rid of them, but that she told him to throw them away.

“This could fall into somebody’s hands that could definitely destroy people’s credit or their lives, and I don’t see putting it in that Dumpster right there.

“I trust that if you’re preparing my taxes you’re going to put this in a file. If you go out of business or retire, you take it and have it disposed of the correct way. You just don’t leave it behind and expect somebody else to have to deal with it.

“If I wasn’t ethical, I could probably make some money off of selling people’s information, or using it myself to go purchase stuff, or open accounts. Who knows what you can do; the sky’s the limit.”

It’s the second time that Fitzgerald has left behind income tax files. In 2013, the feds raided Fitzgerald’s former home office in Cedar Springs and seized tax records.

Target 8 later discovered the feds didn’t get them all.

She’d left behind a burn barrel full of them outside the Cedar Springs home, and records scattered nearby.

Target 8 contacted the feds, who picked them up. The raid led the federal government to file a civil case against her, claiming she filed fraudulent returns that cost the government $11 million in two years alone.

She did not face any criminal charges, but a federal judge last month ordered that she never again work as a tax preparer.

“I contacted you because I knew you were working the original report,” the new homeowner told Target 8. “If you could get ahold of the right people that can have it destroyed. That was my whole intention here.”

Target 8 spoke with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Grand Rapids, which filed the original case against Fitzgerald. Officials there said they plan to contact the IRS to determine what, if anything, they could do with the records.

Fitzgerald could not be reached for comment.

>>Our sister station WOOD-TV first reported this story

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