Ten people were arrested Thursday after a 20-month investigation into a multi-million dollar theft from Floyd County Schools, and federal charges are also possible, local police said.
Former maintenance director Derry Richardson and nine other alleged co-conspirators are accused of inflating and falsifying invoices paid by the school system.
They are each charged with violating the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and other crimes.
RICO charges are typically filed against people who use their business or government office as the basis for an illegal operation.
The amount of money and supplies stolen was previously reported at over $3 million, but is now valued at approximately $4 million, Floyd County Assistant Chief of Police Mark Wallace said. Floyd County police have seized or frozen about $1.7 million in cash and assets.
Three members of Richardson’s family were arrested, including his wife, Lisa Michelle Richardson, his brother Dwayne Lee Richardson and his father, Jimmy Richardson.
Two other former school system employees also were arrested — Greg McCary and Chad Watson — as well as several contractors: Robert Mitchell Anderson, Russell David Burkhalter and Samuel Max Tucker.
Rom Com Inc. owner Harry Anthony Bailey was also arrested.
All 10 turned themselves in to police at around 1 p.m. Thursday. They were all being held without bond late Thursday night.
When asked if more charges would be filed, District Attorney Leigh Patterson said, “Any future indictment will present a more definitive picture of the charges these defendants have been arrested on today.”
Floyd County police began their investigation in October 2014, initially only looking back five years. As investigators found more suspicious activity, they dug back even further, combing through records over 10 years old.
The FBI and IRS are also involved in the investigation, due to potential federal criminal violations and tax violations, Wallace said.
Two duplex apartments valued at $100,000 each, Richardson’s Summerville home valued at more than $525,000 and 60 firearms are among the items seized.
Richardson and other defendants are named in a civil filing under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
Floyd County Schools officials recognized the hard work put in by law enforcement in the case.
“I am extremely thankful for all of the cooperation we’ve received,” Chip Hood, chairman of the Floyd County Board of Education said. “All of the board is.”
David Cox, representative of the Model and Johnson communities, said he is hoping the arrests mean the system can start moving forward.
“If they are guilty, we want justice to be done,” he said. “This case has been going on a long time, and I hope this can mean closure is coming.”
Board Vice Chairman Tony Daniel agreed, saying he hopes the schools and community can begin healing.
Superintendent John Jackson said the board has put many safeguards in place to keep something like this from happening again.
“They have put some very strict policies in place, requiring many levels of approval for purchasing and bids,” Jackson said.
Jackson said the community has been waiting for the arrests.
“The whole community has been anticipating this day,” said Jackson. “I feel like we as a school system, as a community are still reeling from the trauma. These arrests are an important milestone in the healing process.”
Jay Shell, board representative for the Coosa community, said the case has not affected student and teacher performance.
“I know we have seen a lot of bad headlines about this,” he said. “But our kids and our teachers have just kept doing what they do, and they did a great job this year. I feel like this will definitely make taxpayers feel better. This is a sad day, but it also feels good to know that things are happening to put an end to it.”
George Bevels, Cave Spring and McHenry representative, agreed.
“After all this time, I was expecting the arrests,” he said. “Now that it is here, I don’t know how else to describe the feeling I have except as relief.”
Rome News-Tribune Staff Writer Kris Wilder contributed to this report.