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Herbert "Buzz" Franklin, district attorney for the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit, is shown in this file photo.

The Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit district attorney is asking for permission to keep land and equipment seized from a man accused of defrauding a school system.

Herbert "Buzz" Franklin made the request in Chattooga County Superior Court in a civil case tied to Derry Richardson, the former Floyd County Schools maintenance director. Leigh Patterson, the district attorney in the adjacent Rome Judicial Circuit, says Richardson stole about $600,000 from the Floyd County school system.

In his June 30 court filing, Franklin asked a judge to let the government — he doesn't say which government — keep three of Richardson's properties: one in Summerville at 241 Riverbluff Drive, one in Trion at 142 Park Ave., and about two acres in Summerville at the corner of Autumn Wood Drive and Orchard Hill Road.

According to Patterson's complaint, filed in April, Richardson submitted purchase orders for the school system that were either made up, inflated or went toward items that had nothing to do with education. Now Franklin has asked a judge to let the government keep Richardson's assets, which local officials could sell or keep for their own purposes.

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Richardson's attorney, Bobby Lee Cook, did not return calls Wednesday seeking comment. Patterson also declined to comment and Franklin also did not return calls.

The investigation into Richardson began in October, when Schools Superintendent Jeff McDaniel asked the Floyd County Police Department to look into whether some of his employees had committed fraud.

Patterson's racketeering complaint alleges that the former maintenance director spread money around to multiple people.

Patterson has added many of Richardson's family members to the alleged theft ring including his wife, his parents, his brother and his sister-in-law. Patterson also said in court filings that five family businesses benefited from Richardson's alleged fraud against the school system.

Floyd County Police Chief Bill Shiflett told the Times Free Press in May that the investigation into Richardson's alleged racketeering would not end until at least next year.

In his complaint filed last month, Franklin accused Richardson of fraud dating to at least 2005. In addition to taking money, Richardson also is accused of using the school's account to buy personal items, like a chandelier and kitchen appliances.

Franklin also wrote in his court filing that Richardson's father, Jimmy Richardson, was complicit in the operation. He said Derry Richardson gave some of the money to his father, who bought equipment to care for large fields.

According to the filing, Jimmy Richardson bought a track loader, a tractor and two rotary cutters, which you place on the back of a tractor to cut a lot of land at one time.

Franklin has asked a judge to let the government keep this equipment as well.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@ timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6476.

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