James David Fielder, 57, the 14th person indicted in the Floyd County Schools theft case but one of two who hadn’t been arrested as yet, surrendered at the Floyd County Jail on Wednesday. He faces six charges — four counts of violating the state’s RICO (racketeering) Act; records and reports of certain currency transactions; and theft by receiving stolen property.
His address was listed as Elloree, S.C.
The 111-page indictment returned by grand jurors includes several references to Fielder, including “fraudulent invoices” on Model High (school system) including one for nearly $25,000 in March 2010 and two others together worth $9,000 in September of that year.
Sam Sprewell, the director of operations of the Floyd County School System who retired immediately as news of the theft scandal broke in April 2015, has surrendered to authorities at the Floyd County Jail on seven counts stemming from the massive investigation into the racketeering case.
Jail records show Sprewell, 65, was processed on two charges of bribery; four counts of violation of the state’s racketeer influenced and corrupt organizations act; and one charge of theft by taking.
He joined the school system in July 2000 and was earning $103,794 a year when he suddenly retired on April 9, 2015. He supervised the nutrition, maintenance, custodial and transportation departments.
Bond was set at $75,000 by Superior Court Judge Tami Colston. Sprewell has posted that bond as he’s not listed as a jail inmate as of Wednesday morning.
Sprewell and James David Fielder were the two new names added to the case following 12 earlier arrests. In all, 14 people were indicted by grand jurors on Monday based on a 111-page document.
The indictment in the Floyd County Schools/RICO case is 111 pages long and is posted in 20-page segments below. It details allegations of abusive spending and money laundering, with 1,659 instances of alleged wrongdoing. In all, 99 counts are alleged with purported ringleader Derry Richardson facing the most: 14 counts.
The charges include: Acquiring money through racketeering; participating in an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering; conspiracy to acquire money through a pattern of racketeering; conspiracy to participate in an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering; theft by taking; money laundering; bribery; theft by receiving; and “structuring.”
Two more arrests were made in the case, including former senior school system administrator Sam Sprewell who was among the five employees to resign or retire as the case broke in 2015. The final pages of the indictment charge him with bribery (Alabama logo grill, plane tickets, golf outing) and theft by taking (more than $450,000). Sprewell was operations director for the county schools at the time.
Indicted on charges of violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act as of Oct. 1 are:
Robert Mitchell Anderson: Faces five counts.
Harry Anthony Bailey: Six counts
Russell David Burkhalter: Six counts.
David Gary English: Nine counts.
Rodney Don Holder: Seven counts.
Derry Scott Richardson (Resigned in April 2015; was school system’s director of maintenance). 16 counts.
Dwayne Lee Richardson: Six counts.
Jimmy Baigey Richardson: Six counts.
Lisa Michelle Richardson (wife of Derry Richardson). Seven counts.
Charles R. Sherman: Five counts.
Samuel M. Tucker: Six counts.
Robert Chad Watson (Resigned in April 2015 as school system’s operations coordinator). Six counts.
Samuel Sprewell (Retired in April 2015; was school system’s director of operations). Eight counts.
James David Fielder. Six counts.
Pages 1-20: Summary — In stunning detail, the opening pages outline how the operation came together, who allegedly did what, who profited from school funds (including SPLOST dollars) and others also investigated during the process. The details accompanying each name are jaw-dropping.
Pages 21-40: Summary — The detailed tracking of expenditures repeated mentions Amazon, Apple Online, New Egg, taxidermy shops, independents and other retail outlets.
Pages 41-60: Summary — More tracking, including records leading to Toshiba, elegant collectibles and concludes with item no. 806, Canadian Antler Design. Also: It continues with item 807 forward, these detailing with individual school projects. Also: It showcases money transfers, sometimes between some of the 14 indicted on Monday. The standard amounts were $6,000 but others top $28,000.
Pages 61-80: Summary — Explicit detail alleging Derry Richardson was using his Cabela’s credit card to charge lodging, food and other items and then paying for it from his various accounts. Also Christmas dinner board gift cards, Bose speakers, livestock, golf equipment, cookie dough for a child’s fundraiser, Brunswick stew and $500 dinners.
Pages 81-100: Summary — Details spending allegedly by Lisa Richardson, including a $100 trip to Chuck E. Cheese, purchase of the $4,300 Zebra skin chair, a $2.500 dining table, and individual spending on projects.
Pages 101-111: Summary — Outlines alleged spending patterns of Samuel Tuck, many for five figures, as well as Robert Chad Watson.
District Attorney Leigh Patterson does not comment on indictments.
From Floyd County Schools:
The indictments come following a complex, detailed investigation by the Floyd County Police Department, assisted by the GBI. News of the investigation broke soon after four Floyd County Schools employees suddenly resigned and another senior administrator retired.
Please check back for updates all afternoon.
The following is a chronology of events surrounding the Floyd County Schools’ spending scandal and changes within the school system: The information comes from court records, school system and Floyd County Police statements, Hometown Headlines and WRGA reports. (Originally posted June 10, 2016).
2004: Derry Richardson and one other key player in the case meet and form a partnership.
2005: That’s the year investigators believe the thefts began to occur, continuing through April 2015.
2007: Court records show that investigators believe that “beginning no later than 2007, Derry Scott Richardson and others engaged in and committed at least two or more acts of racketeering activity, to wit, violation of state law relating to theft against the Floyd County Board of Education.”
Fall 2014: Allegations of some wrongdoing within the school system’s maintenance department surface and are reported to authorities. Some investigation begins but nothing apparently comes of it.
Spring 2015: New concerns arise, called “questionable spending practices.” The school system says the irregularities were found thanks to new accounting software.
April 9, 2015: Five school employees quickly leave the county school system, including a senior administrator who suddenly retired and four others. Gone are Sam Sprewell, the school system’s chief of operations (retired); Derry Richardson, director of maintenance, Terri Snelling, Director of School Improvement, Robert “Chad” Watson, operations coordinator, and William “Greg” McCary, lead maintenance specialist — all resigned. Background
April 10, 2015: Derry Richardson’s home at 241 Riverbluff Drive in Summerville is raided thanks to search warrants issued in the case.
April 14, 2015: 12:59 p.m.: Richardson withdraws $30,000 at the Summerville location of United Community Bank by presenting the bank a debit transaction “form to facilitate the withdrawal of funds.” He later returns the money as court action begins.
April 17, 2015: In a media release, the school system outlines a shift in personnel that includes the appointment of a “Director of Internal Audits and Compliance… this new position … will review purchasing and finance in all departments in the system. Archive
May 1, 2015: Additional changes within the school system: In another news release: “Floyd County Schools is proposing revisions to purchasing procedures with the submission of a revised board policy and administrative rule to guide the process.”
May 6, 2015: The court-appointed receiver, attorney Brian Bojo of Rome, lists Derry Richardson’s assets at close to $1 million. It was the first of a string of assessments Bojo has assembled since April of last year.
May 21, 2015: Maj. Mark Wallace (since promoted to chief) of the Floyd County Police Department says “multiple” suspects likely will face charges in the spending scandal. “As a result of the Floyd County Board of Education investigation, numerous persons have been identified as conspirators within the criminal enterprise. Arrests are forthcoming and we fully expect multiple persons to face criminal charges.”
Nov. 2, 2015: During a civil hearing, Richardson agrees to forfeit his home and other items.
Feb. 18, 2016: During a meeting with law enforcement personnel, Floyd County Police Chief Bill Shiftlett outlines the schools maintenance department investigation. He confirms the FBI is involved in the case, that the value is now exceeding $3 million, that property has been seized including 60 firearms and that 12 to 14 arrests are pending.
Feb. 19, 2016: A series of court records outlines the $3 million-plus theft and kickback scheme.
April 13, 2016: WRGA reports Shiflett, during the public safety committee, told colleagues “investigators were hoping to make arrests in the probe into theft from the Floyd County Board of Education last week but they decided to wait after they received new information. It led us to more interviews and possible more involvement and it’s best we follow those leads,’ Shiflett said, according to WRGA. Also in play: The FBI’s interest in the investigation is growing, he says. WRGA’s expanded story.
June 9, 2016: Authorities make the first of 10 arrests in the case.
May 2017: William “Greg” McCary, an operations specialist who resigned from the school board in April 2015, dies in an accidental fall at Little River Canyon.
Nov. 1, 2017: The Johnson Controls settlement: “The Floyd County School District and Johnson Controls announce that they have reached an agreement and settlement resolving all disputes between them. The agreed-upon resolution involves a lump-sum payment of $2.3 million by Johnson Controls to Floyd County Schools, along with the provision of services and equipment for a two year period, as well as a preferred service agreement on work the School District may request Johnson Controls to perform in the future.
Nov. 19, 2017: All the items confiscated in the RICO investigation go up for auction, including Derry Richardson’s home outside of Summerville. The auction raises more than $1 million.
Summer 2018: Rumblings begin about concerns in the criminal investigation because of the statute of limitations in the case. Some feared the deadline was November of this year; it actually was October. The massive 110-page indictment showcases what took so long.
Oct. 1, 2018: 14 suspects are indicted, including two people who had yet to be charged.
PREVIOUS MILESTONES IN THE CASE:
Below please find a series of stories regarding the RICO case, starting at the bottom with the initial news report of four employees resigning from the school system and another suddenly retiring. The stories appear in reverse chronological order (most recent first). Some of the information was updated in each succeeding story.
NOV. 19, 2017: The gates at the Coosa Valley Fairgrounds opened at 8 a.m. Saturday to prepare for the “Super Bowl of Local Auctions.” It was a big one, perhaps the biggest in more than 20 years as more than 600 items linked to the theft of more than $4 million from Floyd County Schools brought in easily $1 million.
The top item was the Derry Richardson home on the Chattooga River near Summerville. It alone went for $390,000. Vehicles, electronics, even Zebra chairs were sold as a packed house at the Coosa Valley Fairgrounds looked for a bargain. Those stripped chairs? $8,600 on their own.
Given the number of items up for auction as well as some 2,300 registered bidders — enough to fill half of State Mutual Stadium — an overall smooth process was reported.
By 7:30 pm., it was over — and more than $1 million has been risen. The Floyd County Board of Education will be recovering the bulk of those funds.
Dempsey Auction ran the sale following Richardson’s settlement of a civil case over the thefts investigation. None of the suspects in the criminal case have gone to trial as yet.
FROM JUNE 2016: After more than 14 months of investigation, sifting through accounts, transactions and other financial data, area authorities have arrested 10 people on theft and other charges stemming from mismanagement of the Floyd County School System’s maintenance operation.
Among those arrested are Derry Richardson, who suddenly resigned from his $85,400-a-year job on April 9, 2015, as did three others as the scandal went public. Two of those also resigning that day — Robert “Chad” Watson, operations director, and William “Greg” McCary, operations specialist (Updated: McCary died in a fall at Little River Canyon in May 2017) — also were among those arrested Thursday. Also on April 9, the school system’s operations director, Sam Sprewell, suddenly retired while Terri Snelling, Director of School Improvement, resigned. They were not among those taken into custody.
Richardson’s wife, Lisa, and other relatives are among those booked into the Floyd County Jail on Thursday afternoon. You’ll find the arrest reports below.
Thursday afternoon, the Floyd County Police Department posted a brief video highlighting the investigation into the thefts. Some of the updates included:
- The total thefts came to more than $4 million.
- Seized and recovered were $437,832 in cash; overall seized total $1.7 million.
- Among the items seized and recovered: weapons, ammunition, tractors, Green Egg cookers, a duplex and Derry Richardson’s home in Summerville.
- It thanks those who worked on the investigation including two GBI analysts, Wendi Raley and Kevin Garrett; District Attorney Leigh Patterson and her chief assistant, Martha Jacobs.
Here’s a look at the charges all 10 suspects face (images courtesy of the Floyd County Police Department):
FEB. 19, 2016: A complex web of thefts and kickbacks worth more than $3 million involving former Floyd County Schools maintenance chief Derry Richardson and perhaps a dozen others is outlined in “exhibit A” of a series of court documents revolving around the RICO investigation into a scheme uncovered almost a year ago.
Under the heading “summary of RICO enterprise” is this opening paragraph: “Beginning in 2005 and continuing through April 2015, the exact dates being unknown, defendant Derry Richardson and others acting in concert and complicity with him, both known and unknown, did knowingly devise and executive a scheme and artifice to defraud and to obtain in excess of $3 million in money and personal property of the Floyd County Board of Education by means of a pattern of racketeering activity (RICO Enterprise…. At all times relevant to the events described, Richardson was employed by the Floyd County Board of Education in its maintenance department. Derry Richardson had control of procuring purchases and negotiating and entering into construction contracts on behalf of the FCBOE.”
Important note: Before reading the following, please know that no criminal charges have been filed in this case. Those referenced are directly from public court records. Also of note: these documents are drawn from a civil court action, not criminal. You can read the entire file by clicking here; link courtesy of WRGA. Floyd County Police Chief Bill Shiflett has said he expects 12 to 14 arrests to come out of the investigation.
Returning to the findings in “Exhibit A:” The court records list each person allegedly associated with Richardson. It starts with a heading of each person’s name and then continues paragraph after paragraph to list suspected activity. This is where many of those 6,000 hours of Floyd County Police investigation likely were spent, given the precised detail.
For example, it starts with Steve Bevill identified as “a contractor ostensibily conducting legitimate work for the Floyd County Board of Education both individual and a subcontractor for Johnson Control Inc.” It says Bevill met Richardson in 2004. Eventually, records show Richardson would insist “that JCI hire Bevill”… “Bevill, doing business as SMD Contracting, submitted fake invoices for payment to Johnson and received a total of $2,318,798 from Johnson Control on such invoices.”
The document also shows that a bogus company was created by the two and how money was channeled from SMD to what was called Bevill Contracting. It expands to show creation of another bogus company, Summerville Building and Supply, involving Richardson’s brother, Dwayne Richardson.
Next is Mitchell Anderson. The document alleges Richardson and Anderson conspired “to steal money from the FCBOE and that “the total theft for the period from 2005 through April 2015 is believed to be approximately $93,013 stolen from FCBOE.” It also talks about a kickback where an Anderson relative was employed by the school system but “often attended (college) classes during normal work hours.”
Harold Bailey. This one deals with Romcom electrical supply company and the home Derry Richardson was building near Summerville. The document states the “total theft” from this particular area came to $188,517. “The Richardsons also purchased several Apple computer/iPad products. RomCom would disguise the products as ‘computer parts.’ It also alleges Richardson gave close friend and coworker Terri Snelling a computer purchased with those funds. Snelling, a former principal and senior administrator with the school system, was among those resigning from the school system last April 9 with Richardson and two others.
Russell Burkhalter: The document alleges Burkhalter “at the instruction of Derry Richardson, would inflate the invoices that he submitted to the FCBOE and funnel money back to Derry Richardson.” Total amount listed under this headline: $250,060.
Sam Tucker: The document also alleges that under Derry Richardson’s instruction, Tucker “submitted inflated invoices to FCBOE.” This one, in part, allegedly involved five or six fire rings paid for by the school system. Amount of theft: $50,122.
Kristopher Hayes: The document says Hayes allegedly conspired with Derry Richardson “to assist him in the theft of monies from FCBOE. “For example, Hays purchased various items, including guns, with FCBOE funds. .. Similarly, Hayes paid for hunting trips for himself, Derry Richardson and others, and listed the cost of such trips on inflated work-related invoices” paid by the school system. Amount: $182,465.
Chad Watson: He also allegedly conspired in the “theft of monies” with Derry Richardson, the document alleges. This one allegedly deals with tire purchases, inflated invoices and brings in several people previously mentioned as well. Total: $45,071. Watson also was among those who resigned April 9.
Kadima Inc. The document alleges the company, owned by Stanley M. Murray, also conspired “to assist him in the theft of monies” from the board of education. It alleges $94,000 paid for asbestos removal at Coosa Middle School, a task that was never completed.
Lisa Richardson: The document alleges she conspired with her husband, Derry, with funds used to secure items for their new home. One item details more than 20 eBay purchases paid by Bevill’s Discover card. It also outlines trips to New York, Disney World and cruises.
Dwayne Richardson: The document accuses him of conspiring with his brother, including the school system paying “inflated invoices submitted by various vendors.” Also: “For example, co-defendant Steve Bevill would inflate the cost of labor on FCBOE projects, submit the inflated invoice, receive payment and send a portion of the funds to Dwayne Richardson who ultimately funneled the funds back to Derry Richardson,” according to the document.
Jimmy Richardson: The final person named in the document, which accuses him of assisting in “the theft of monies from the FCBOE.” It alleges land purchases for Derry Richardson put in Jimmy’s name as well as personal property.
Again, this is drawn from civil court records and no criminal charges have been filed. Hometown Headlines obtained a copy of this document following an Open Records Request to the Board of Education.
FEB. 19, 2016: Five people left the Floyd County school system — one retiring, four others resigning — on April 9 as the spending scandal went public, together presenting 67 years of combined service to Floyd County and together earning more than $380,000 a year. Hometown Headlines requested some background information on those who have left. It shows their work relationships, comfortable salaries and the time each has spent with the board of education.
Sam Sprewell retired Thursday as the school system’s chief of operations.
- Hired: July 31, 2000. Retired April 9, 2015.
- Salary: $103,794
- Supervised: Nutrition, maintenance, custodial and transportation departments.
- Direct supervisor: Dr. Jeff McDaniel, then superintendent.
Derry Richardson, director of maintenance
- Hired: Feb. 28, 2005. Resigned April 9, 2015.
- Salary: $85,397
- Supervised: Maintenance department (around 20 employees).
- Direct supervisor: Sam Sprewell, then operations chief.
- Eligible for retirement: Has at least 10 years vested with the Teachers Retirement System through Floyd County Schools so at age 60, he can draw retirement.
Terri Snelling, Director of School Improvement
- Hired: July 1, 2000. Resigned April 9, 2015.
- Salary: $95,651
- Supervised: None.
- Direct supervisor: Chief of Academics Tony Bethune.
- Eligible for retirement: Has at least 10 years vested with the Teachers Retirement System through Floyd County Schools so at age 60 can draw retirement.
Robert “Chad” Watson, operations coordinator
- Hired: March 1, 2009. Resigned April 9, 2015.
- Salary: $45,997.80
- Supervised: None
- Direct supervisor: Then Director of Maintenance Derry Richardson
- Eligible for retirement: No.
William “Greg” McCary, lead maintenance specialist
- Hired: Aug. 22, 1994. Resigned April 9, 2015.
- Salary: $49,546
- Supervised: None
- Direct supervisor:Then Director of maintenance Derry Richardson
- Eligible for retirement: Has at least 10 years vested with the Teachers Retirement System through Floyd County Schools so at age 60 can draw retirement.
APRIL 9, 2015: News of the investigation stuns Floyd County as four county school employees resign and another senior administrator sudden retires.