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Fugitive coach faces extradition
Arrested in Ohio on felony fraud charges
1 Prep Academy mug

A local sports academy director who was arrested in Ohio after reportedly writing thousands of dollars in bad checks will be extradited to Dawson County, authorities said.


The Sept. 21 arrest of Darren Wesley, director of North Georgia College Prep Academy, came hours after a local magistrate judge issued a felony warrant against him for deposit account fraud.


Dawson County investigators had four additional felony warrants signed later that day for deposit account fraud and theft of services.


According to Deputy U.S. Marshal Jeff Erwin, 39-year-old Wesley was arrested without incident at a hotel room by marshals in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.


Students of the sports academy, whose Web site touts it as a nonprofit college preparatory school, were playing an exhibition game Sept. 20 against a team in Ashland, Ohio, about 50 miles west of Cuyahoga Falls.


Dawson County Sheriff’s Lt. Tony Wooten said local warrant officers “had a location where they believed him to be.” Authorities in Summitt County, Ohio, asked U.S. Marshals to step in.


Erwin said marshals are assigned when warrants are issued for fugitives in that county.


“The Summit County Sheriff’s Department uses us almost exclusively to handle their warrants for fugitives,” Erwin said. “It was standard operating procedure.”


He said Wesley was considered a fugitive because “a warrant was issued and he did not turn himself in.”


Wooten said Wesley signed extradition papers Sept. 23.


Extradition usually takes less than 10 days, Wooten said, though “every jurisdiction is a little different.”


Wooten said the local sheriff’s office is using an extradition company to have Wesley moved.


Once returned, Wesley will be held at the Dawson County Detention Center. A first appearance hearing in Magistrate Court could soon follow.


Authorities have said Wesley has reportedly written $6,500 in bad checks.


Three warrants for felony theft of services allege that Wesley “did by deception and with intent to avoid payment, knowingly obtain certain services.”


The other warrants were issued for deposit account fraud, or the attempted payment of money from a closed account.


Businesses that reportedly received bad checks include a catering company and a transportation service for students of the academy.


The check for transportation services totaled about $4,300, while the catering business received two bad checks, one for $1,000 and the other for $1,300.


Magistrate Judge Tony Tarnacki issued the first warrant Sept. 21 after hearing testimony from catering business owner Cathie Waddell.


The original amounts of the checks in Waddell’s report totaled more than $5,000, but Wesley did not sign one of them.


Wooten said the sheriff’s office is investigating other incidents that have been reported.


“There is a possibility of additional charges as the investigation continues to unfold,” he said.


Reports filed with the sheriff’s office total more than $10,000 in alleged insufficient funds, Sheriff Billy Carlisle said.


Most of the reports have come from employees of the academy.


It appears financial troubles have followed the business, which moved to Dawsonville in July from Columbus, Ohio.


According to Franklin County, Ohio Municipal Court records, Wesley was taken to court for an eviction Dec. 30, 2009, under the business’s former name, Columbus Post Graduate Sports Academy.


He paid $162 in restitution fines, according to court documents.


As of last week, a phone number for Wesley was no longer operational.


Despite the director’s absence, coaches and students reportedly remain on the Dawson County campus.


Many of the students, who range in age from 17 to 20, have traveled from far away to attend the academy in pursuit of college football scholarships.


Southern Catholic College, which ended classes due to a lack of funding, has been leasing its campus to the academy on a month-to-month basis.


Officials with the college could not be reached for comment.