Eastside High School head football coach and biology teacher (Joseph) Rick Hurst turned himself in to DeKalb County authorities Nov. 25 on felony charges of theft by taking in apparent mortgage fraud, according to information available on DeKalb County’s Online Judicial System.
Hurst, along with five other defendants, faces four counts of theft by taking in DeKalb’s Superior Court. A fifth defendant faces two of the four counts. The group is accused of fraudulently receiving more than $255,000 in late 2004 and early 2005 from Argent Mortgage Company, People’s Choice Home Loan, Argent Mortgage Company again and Consumer Mortgage Services after closing on four properties—one located in Decatur, one in Tucker and two in Lilburn.
"I thought I was getting into a business venture that was dealing with real estate and instead I was supplying my name and my credit to an individual that was taking advantage of it," Hurst said. "I learned one thing – not to trust anyone with your name or your credit."
A bench warrant was issued in DeKalb for Hurst’s arrest Nov. 10. Hurst, who had come to the Newton County School System three years ago from Gwinnett County Schools, turned himself in Nov. 24, and was released later that evening on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond.
"I know that I didn’t do anything illegal," Hurst said. "I’ve wanted to be a head football coach for as long as I could remember and at the point and time that I started this, I wasn’t even here at Eastside and I wasn’t a head coach at the time. I would have never done anything to jeopardize the chance of becoming one."
NCSS spokesperson Sherri Viniard said Hurst had told the school system of the possibility of his arrest.
"We are aware of the situation involving Mr. Hurst, as he has been diligent in informing the administration of the investigation," Viniard said in a statement originally prepared last week. "Mr. Hurst has been forthright in his communications with the school administration and with the central office, as recent events have unfolded. Although we are always concerned when any employee is arrested, we are fortunate that this situation does not pose a threat to the safety of the students with whom Mr. Hurst is entrusted as a teacher and coach. With this said, we are committed to monitoring the allegations and legal actions closely and are acting in accordance with local personnel policies/procedures and state law governing reporting these types of infractions."
If convicted, Hurst could face more than 10 years in prison and the Georgia Professional Standards Commission could pose a warning, reprimand, suspension, revocation or denial of his teaching certificate. An arraignment in the case is set for Jan. 5 in DeKalb County Superior Court.
"I fully believe that my name will be cleared in all of this because, again, if I knew anything was illegal, I certainly wouldn't have involved my name in it," Hurst said.