Though civil actions in the RICO case concerning decade-long thefts totaling $6.3 million from Floyd County Schools have wrapped up and more than $3 million has been returned, through a settlement and the liquidation of seized and forfeited items, it is still not over.
Early last week, during a Floyd County Board of Education meeting, attorney King Askew, who represents the school system, gave an update on the case. He said though the civil case has come to a close, there is an ongoing discussion on whether or not to pursue civil action against another party.
Askew then turned to the criminal piece of the RICO case. Indictments have not been handed down for the 13 people arrested and charged with inflating and falsifying invoices paid by the school system and violating the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and other crimes — one of those arrested has died since his arrest in June 2016. He explained to board members the statute of limitations for felony charges, such as theft, is four years and for RICO charges is five years.
The statute of limitations for the felony charges from the case runs out this November, and then November 2019 for RICO charges, according to Floyd County District Attorney Leigh Patterson.
"I don't normally make comments on a pending case,” Patterson said. “But obviously I know this is important to the community and we are continuing to work on it.”
Tuesday’s board meeting was the second time recently when board members openly asked about the status of the criminal case — they discussed it during caucus at August’s meeting. They have said the topic of when those charged will have their cases taken up in court is something they are often asked about by community members. And this case has been a topic for the last four years.
Where it’s been
Floyd County police Maj. Jeff Jones and Chief Mark Wallace, then the assistant police chief, delivered the 3,000-page case summary to the DA’s office in December of last year, ending a nearly three-year investigation that took almost 20,000 man hours and took the two men across the country — the expense of the investigation was $429,920.94.
“It’s kind of like the taxpayers have paid twice,” Wallace said at the time.
Their investigation led to the arrest of Derry Richardson, the former maintenance director for the system and who investigators said was the mastermind of the thefts, along with his wife Lisa, father Jimmy and brother Dwayne. The Richardsons and six others turned themselves in to police on June 9, 2016. The six others 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.
On Nov. 2, 2017, the Floyd County Board of Education approved a settlement with Johnson Controls Inc. which will pay the system $2.3 million and provide services and equipment for two years. The total value of the settlement is $2.7 million, and money from it has been put toward school system projects.
Derry Richardson had worked for Johnson Controls before taking his position with Floyd County Schools. However, the company was not a party in the RICO lawsuit brought by the school system. The state attempted to add Johnson Controls as a party, but that request was denied in Floyd County Superior Court.
Then this March, the school system received $1,138,007 through the liquidation of seized and forfeited items connected to the RICO case. Some of the returned funds came from an auction of seized and forfeited items held Nov. 18, 2017, at the Coosa Valley Fairgrounds. More recovered funds, totaling $123,218, were received by the school system in May, to be put toward security upgrades at two schools.