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RICO: Conspirators mostly stole from ELOST funds, 2 additional people now face criminal charges in the case

October 2, 2018

Conspirators who defrauded Floyd County Schools of over $6 million sought to further their scheme by contributing to a pro-education local option sales tax group — because a majority of the thefts came from ELOST project funds, an indictment released Monday stated.

The 111-page indictment states the conspirators donated the money in order to “increase the SPLOST and ELOST money available to them.”

As part of the conspiracy, Derry Richardson instructed co-conspirators to give contributions — totaling around $6,000 — to Rome/Floyd Citizens for Better Education. The group is an independent committee which encourages citizens to vote for ELOST extensions.

According to the indictment:

Richardson is accused of using his position as maintenance director in the school system to steal millions of dollars from the school system and included family, friends and co-workers in the ongoing scheme.

Conspirators created inflated, and in some cases completely fraudulent, invoices for construction and maintenance projects.

Richardson included his wife Lisa Richardson, his father Jimmy Richardson and brother Dwayne Richardson in the plot.

The Richardsons, along with eight others, turned themselves in at the Floyd County jail on June 9, 2016, on RICO and theft charges. Those arrested were Robert Mitchell Anderson, Russell David Burkhalter, Samuel Max Tucker, Harry Anthony Bailey, Robert Chad Watson and William Greg McCary, who died from a fall at Little River Canyon in May 2017.

In July 2017, three more arrests were made on felony theft by taking, bribery and RICO charges, with Charles Raiden Sherman, David Gary English and Rodney Don Holder being taken into custody.

The indictment released on Monday also charges two more people —James David Fielder and Sam Sprewell, former Floyd County Schools chief of operations.

Fielder and Sprewell are both charged with RICO violations. Fielder is additionally charged with money laundering and theft by receiving. Sprewell is also charged on a bribery and theft by taking charge.

“As a result of this scheme Derry Richardson and others stole $6,331,135.00 from the Floyd County Board of Education, money that was intended for the benefit of the children of the Floyd County Schools,” the indictment opened.

The criminal charges come after a civil case was finalized earlier this year.

As part of that case, the school system recouped $1,138,007 through the liquidation of seized and forfeited items connected to the RICO case. More recovered funds, totaling $123,218, were received by the school system in May, to be put toward security upgrades at two schools.

In addition, but not part of the civil RICO case, Richardson’s former employer Johnson Controls Inc. agreed to pay the Floyd County Board of Education $2.3 million and provide services and equipment for two years. The total value of the settlement is $2.7 million.

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