Derry Richardson, other suspects in Floyd County Schools thefts/RICO case enter guilty pleas. Case chronology. District Attorney Leigh Patterson: ‘We have successfully recovered almost all of the $6 million in stolen funds.’

Derry Richardson, other suspects in Floyd County Schools thefts/RICO case enter guilty pleas. Case chronology. District Attorney Leigh Patterson: ‘We have successfully recovered almost all of the $6 million in stolen funds.’

Derry Richardson and most of the suspects in the Floyd County Schools’ theft/RICO case entered guilty pleas in superior court Monday morning. The surprising development means almost all suspects in the case have accepted plea deals — some with prison time, others with house arrest and two seeing charges dismissed. All gave up their rights to appeal. It closes one of the nastier stories in recent memory in Floyd County where up to $6 million was involved in a bizarre ring concocted by the a Chattooga County man, authorities say.

The Rome News-Tribune is reporting as follows:

Derry Richardson sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to RICO charges: Multiple defendants in the Floyd County Schools RICO investigation all pleaded guilty to varying participation in a racketeering conspiracy to defraud the county school system out more than $6 million. (Click here for more if you’re a subscriber; there is a paywall if not).

A few others received prison time while others were sentenced to house arrest. Richardson’s wife, Lisa, will not serve time in jail; the couple have several children. Charges against Sam Sprewell, who was chief of operations at the school system when the case broke and retired immediately in April 2015, were dismissed, says his attorney, J.J. Walker Seifert.   He has maintained his innocence since the case began, she said Monday.


New: Media statement from District Attorney Leigh Patterson:

An incredible amount of work went into this RICO investigation. The Floyd County Police Department devoted extensive resources to the investigation as did the Office of the District Attorney. One of the main goals was to recover as much of the stolen funds as possible. The District Attorney’s Office, with the assistance of Special Assistant District Attorney Michael Lambros, filed a civil RICO case to lock down and seize as many assets as possible which were turned in to the Court Appointed Receiver Brian Bojo.
The Receiver also sought out and collected many additional assets. The Receiver organized and held a public auction with local auctioneer Lou Dempsey at the Coosa
Valley Fairgrounds which was one of the largest in the history of Floyd County. After today’s guilty pleas, we have successfully recovered almost all of the $6 million in stolen funds.
With the recent delays forced on the judicial system by Covid-19, coupled with a certainty of more appeals if the case had continued, we could not reasonably expect to try this this case before 2022. The Office of the District Attorney has received over 1,000 additional cases since early March 2020. Our case management system shows approximately 5,000 cases pending. The current Order of Judicial Emergency by the Georgia Supreme Court has not allowed jurors in Georgia courthouses since March 14, 2020.
As part of their pleas, all defendants gave up their appellate rights and must file to withdraw their current pending appeals. Instead of the case continuing onward and being delayed indefinitely—these pleas provide finality and closure for the community.
We took into consideration many factors regarding possible pleas, including each defendant’s individual culpability, their cooperation with law enforcement, the ability to make the Floyd County Board of Education whole with the further collection of restitution, and the fact that each of these defendants admitted guilt and accepted their responsibility in Derry Richardson’s RICO scheme.
As the ringleader of the scheme, Derry Richardson justly received a sentence of 40 years, to serve 20 years in prison and remaining restitution. As head of the Maintenance
Department at the Floyd County Board of Education, Derry Richardson was in a prime position to exploit the greed of the other co-defendants who were vying for Floyd County
Board of Education business.
As the District Attorney, I truly appreciate the community’s patience and share in its concerns. The stolen Floyd County tax dollars were to be used to educate this community’s greatest resource–its children. The Floyd County Board of Education put new procedures in place to provide accountability and to guard against future theft.
I would like to extend thanks to the following for all their hard work:​
Former Floyd County Police Chief Bill Shiflett, Chief Mark Wallace, and especially Major Jeff Jones who handled the majority of the investigation. Thanks also to all the FCPD
Investigators, Officers, and Clerical Staff who assisted in the investigation, especially CID Clerk Leslie Glover. Several FCPD Interns also assisted in compiling the mountains
of financial information: Carter Griffin, Darcy Criollo, and Xinia Camacho Smith.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, especially GISAC Analyst Kevin Garrett and Financial Crimes Investigative Unit Manger Wendi Raley.
The Court Appointed Receiver Brian Bojo and all the partners, associates, and staff at McRae, Smith, Peek, Harman & Monroe, LLP, for their incredibly hard work on the Civil
RICO case. Receiver Bojo was greatly assisted by his law partner Chris Jackson.
The members of the Floyd County Board of Education: Dr. Tony Daniel, Chip Hood, Dr. Melinda Strickland, Jay Shell, and Melinda Jeffers. Dr. Jeff McDaniel and Dr. John
Jackson, former superintendents, and especially Dr. April Childers. Thanks also to FCBOE attorney King Askew and his partners, associates, and staff at Brinson, Askew
& Berry for their assistance.
Auctioneer Lou Dempsey and his crew that put on the huge auction and all the minutiae of detail that goes with that for the good of this community. Thanks to the Rome
Exchange Club and the Coosa Valley Fair Association for the use of the fairgrounds as the auction site.
My hardworking and wonderful staff at the Office of the District Attorney, especially Chief ADA Martha Jacobs, ADA Emily Johnson, ADA Luke Martin, ADA Leah Mayo, Office
Manager Terry Nolan, Courtroom Clerk Tammy Dehart, Former Chief Investigator John Harkins, Chief Investigator Scott Weaver, Investigators Steve Acker and Rodney
Leonard and Special ADA Michael Lambros.

 


We published the chronology below several years ago and has been updated. Since then, the case has taken several turns in the court system and an auction was held to sell items seized during the suspects’ arrests, with proceeds benefiting Floyd County Schools. That chronology:

The information comes from court records, school system and Floyd County Police statements, Hometown Headlines and WRGA reports.

  • 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.
  • 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 assistant 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.
  • 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. Dempsey Auction ran the sale following Richardson’s settlement of a civil case over the thefts investigation.
  • February 2020:  The Floyd County Grand Jury has re-indicted 13 Floyd County Schools RICO defendants after previous indictments were dropped last year. According to the 307-count indictment filed Friday, Derry Scott Richardson is accused of using his position as the school system’s maintenance director to steal millions of dollars from the public schools — and he included family, friends and coworkers in the ongoing scheme. Conspirators are accused of creating inflated, and in some cases completely fraudulent, invoices for both construction and maintenance projects. Other family members charged along with Richardson are his wife, Lisa Richardson; his father, Jimmy Richardson; and his brother Dwayne Richardson. Also charged are Russell David Burkhalter, Samuel Max Tucker, Harry Anthony Bailey, Robert Chad Watson, Charles Raiden Sherman, David Gary English, Rodney Don Holder, Sam Sprewell and James David Fielder.
  • July 27, 2020: Derry Richardson, others enter guilty pleas before Superior Court Judge Jack Neidrach.
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