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Puppy mill couple arrested again; bonds set, passports surrendered

Investigators from the Georgia Department of Revenue and Lamar sheriff’s deputies were back at the Matthews property at 900 Johnstonville Road Wednesday morning. John David and Latitia Matthews have been taken to jail on two counts each of tax evasion. More charges are possible. ******************** NOTICE: This story and photo(s) are under copyright. They may not be republished or disseminated in any form or format – including social media – without explicit permission. ********************* Undercover revenue agents were at the scene placing holds on a truck, offshore fishing boat and a Mercedes SUV. Search warrants are now being used to search the Matthews home. UPDATE: Chad Payne, LCSO’s lead investigator on the case, and Josh Waites, director of the office of special investigations at the Georgia Department of Revenue, gave statements at the scene just before 1 p.m. Wednesday. PAYNE: ”They were selling dogs. Some of the dogs were sick. We have been looking into the money aspect of the whole thing. We looked at their invoices. They were charging taxes but not paying taxes so we got in touch with the Department of Revenue,” Payne said. He reported the LCSO investigation revealed $180,000 in income in 2016 on which no taxes were paid. ”They were taking in about $14,000 a month. We don’t have a motive but they were not following the rules you and I have to follow,” Payne alleged. WAITES: ”We checked their invoices. They were selling dogs and they were selling food items. They were charging sales tax. If they did not pay sales taxes to the state, that will be theft by conversion. We have not seized any assets today. We are placing holds on all this stuff – property and possessions. It will be up to the district attorney’s office to decide if it is to be seized,” noted Waites who lives in Milner. Jessica Rock, special prosecutor in the puppy mill cases, was on the scene as was assistant district attorney Anita Howard. Multiple undercover agents from the revenue department were searching the home and property. At one point, they were trying to get into a safe located in the home. John David and Latitia Matthews were taken to the Lamar County jail where they will be held pending a bond hearing. Payne said no dogs were found in Wednesday’s raid. The question now is this: If the Matthews assets are seized or frozen, how will they be able to pay for veterinary exams on all the dogs removed from the property in March. Senior judge Wade Crumbley ruled in favor of the exams requested by defense attorney Johnnie Caldwell May 9. He denied a motion for reconsideration of that ruling filed by Rock at a subsequent hearing on May 23. UPDATE2: After a hearing, magistrate judge Karen Jackson set bond for each defendant at $20,000 on the new charges. She ordered them not to move outside the Towaliga judicial circuit (Lamar, Monroe and Butts counties) and to surrender their passports. BACK STORY: The Matthews were arrested as operators of an alleged local puppy mill on March 13 at the home. Each of them face 43 counts of cruelty to animals and one count of improper disposal of dead animals. David Matthews faces three counts of aggravated cruelty to animals while Latitia Matthews faces two counts of that same offense. A total of 44 dogs were seized as were 18 pigs. Nine dead pigs were found on the 75-acre property and roaming puppies were photographed eating the dead pigs. Only one small bag of cat food was found at the scene, investigators said.

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