Editor’s note: This is the second report in a two-part series on what two Floyd County police investigators went through during their almost three year long RICO investigation and the insights they’ve gained concerning the alleged scheme that led to millions of dollars in losses for Floyd County Schools.
It’s a different world with money and power, Derry Richard-son told Floyd County police investigators during an inter-view, said Maj. Jeff Jones.
“As it grows you’re on top of the world,” Jones recalled Richardson conveying to him, adding that the former Floyd County Schools maintenance director, who is at the center of a scheme that resulted in $6.3 million in losses for the school system, said he had a weakness for women and money.
Richardson — who is one of a group of 13 charged with inflating and falsifying invoices paid by the school system and violating the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and other crimes — began to buy things with his “ill-gotten gains” just to buy them, Jones said. While on the job, he would spend an inordinate amount of time on the internet searching for items to buy, Jones continued.
“It was like he was addicted at that point,” he said.
It was surprising to Jones and Assistant Police Chief Mark Wallace how little the other people received and how much Richardson did, Jones said. The 12 others charged in the case only gained $1.6 million, while Richardson profited a total of $4.7 million, he continued.
And that is just what investigators were able to find from their almost three year long investigation, with it being nearly impossible to recover all of what was taken, he added.
The manipulation that Richardson exhibited was startling, Jones said. He would befriend people — using varying methods to get them to take part — starting small and getting them hooked on what the inflated construction costs or payments for uncompleted work yielded, he added.
Some people felt compelled to keep it up, as the scheme, which included money laundering, swelled to a point where even among those involved some had no idea what others were up to, he said.
“It was almost like he groomed them from the very beginning,” said Jones, adding that in some instances, while the thefts continued during the recession, he would threaten to take his business elsewhere unless others played along.
Not a 9 to 5
Investigations do not have quitting bells and do not afford breaks. Both Wallace and Jones felt this during the RICO investigation, none more than Jones.
“It’s not a 9 to 5 job,” said Jones, who lost 1,001.64 hours of paid time off during the investigation. “If you wait until to-morrow to get the information, you may not get it. When you’re on a lead, you’ve got to run with it.”
He spent much of his time off the clock working the case, during which he had some additional casework and was over-seeing other investigations.
“We spent many a night in the Atlanta area,” said Jones, speaking to a partial contribution to the 13,920 miles driven for the case that also led them to other areas of the state, as well as Alabama and Florida. “You just never what tomorrow’s going to bring with this job.”
In one case, Wallace broke off from his family vacation in Fort Walton Beach in Florida, dropping his wife and daughter off at an outlet mall, to visit a potential witness. He ended up talking with the man out in his truck.
It was not a major interview, but it was a box that had to be checked, Wallace continued. He knew that if he didn’t go to talk with this man at that time, then he and Jones would have had to make the trip while on the clock, adding more expenses.
“You know you’re working. But it’s not until you put these numbers together that you think ‘did I really do that?’” said Wallace, talking about all of the man hours of driving, flying and case work that went into the investigation.
But they weren’t alone in the process or they’d still be walking around with legal pads trying to the connect the dots had it not been for assistance they received.
In thinking back on his medical issues at the start of the investigation, a torn Achilles tendon and the complications of a pulmonary embolism, Jones said he knows there is a reason he is still around.
He just has to figure it out.