A police report released late Monday night, March 26, alleges that former Riverwood International Charter School principal Eddie Echols stole almost $25,000 by making charges to a fraudulent credit card.
Echols now faces three charges related to the investigation that ended his tenure as the school’s principal: theft by taking, financial identity fraud and financial transaction card fraud.
The police investigator’s report, compiled by Fulton County Schools Police Chief Felipe Usury, provides a narrative of the investigation that continued after Echols resigned from Riverwood in fall 2011. Attempts to reach Echols for comment so far have been unsuccessful.
The report recounts a conversation between Echols and Superintendent Robert Avossa, in which it is alleged that Echols admitted to making inappropriate charges because he had financial troubles.
“But I paid it right back,” Echols is alleged to have said to Avossa when discussing the suspicious credit card charges.
The report alleges Echols did not show up for an interview at school police headquarters on Feb. 28 and he was told he had until Feb. 29 to turn himself in to the Fulton County Jail. Jail records indicate Echols was arrested on Feb. 29 and released on March 1 on $15,000 bond. School spokeswoman Samantha Evans said Echols turned himself in.
The report alleges Echols in 2008 applied for and received a Costco American Express Card under both his name and Riverwood International Charter School. The report says Echols never received permission from the Fulton County Board of Education to apply for, receive or use the card. Fulton County schools does not use American Express for any schools-related purchases, the report says.
The report also alleges that Echols renewed the card and allowed an unidentified Riverwood parent to put his picture on it, providing evidence used to charge Echols with identity fraud.
The report alleges that from fiscal 2008 to 2011Echols made nearly $25,000 worth of purchases with the card and paid $21,400 of the bill using Riverwood’s local money. The report alleges there was no documentation supporting these items as legitimate purchases. School-related purchases require receipts, invoices and itemized reports.
So far, Echols has repaid $2,267 of the money he owes the school system, the report alleges. The report says Echols owes nearly $19,000.
The report alleges that in 2009, the school system auditor told him to stop using the card. It alleges he continued using the card. According to the report, Echols told an investigator he felt school system accountant Janie Brockbank knew about and approved his use of the card. Brockbank told investigators she would not have authorized a card that wasn’t obtained through the school system’s central office, the report says.
Avossa told investigators that when he spoke with Echols, the former principal told him he used the card to pay for a rehearsal dinner and his wife’s ticket to a conference.
Usury wrote that he discussed his findings with Senior District Attorney Tina Stanford in the Fulton County DA’s office. The report says Stanford agreed with the charges listed in Usury’s report.