Ga. Regents member resigns amid state investigation

Georgia Board of Regents member C. Dean Alford abruptly resigned Thursday amid a state investigation into allegations he forged a state employee’s signature and filed fraudulent invoices to collect taxpayer funds for his company.

The state Attorney General’s Office and Georgia Bureau of Investigation issued an arrest warrant for Alford on suspected racketeering and for criminal attempt to commit theft by taking charges. The Attorney General’s Office was making arrangements with Alford for him to turn himself in Thursday afternoon.

State officials said Alford exploited a common industry practice referred to in the financial services sector as “factoring.” Factoring is a financial transaction in which a business may sell its accounts receivable to a third party at a discount and pay a fee when the money is collected.

Alford, 66, is accused of creating a fraudulent invoice acknowledgement form, dated Sept. 24, and submitting it to a Florida-based company called Versant Funding, state officials said. The form is alleged to have falsely asserted that the University of Georgia would pay Versant $487,982 to satisfy a debt owed to Alford’s own company, Allied Energy Services, LLC, located in Rockdale County. Alford allegedly forged a university employee’s signature on the document.

Founded in 1977, Allied Energy Services works on permitting, financing and construction of solar, waste to energy and other projects. Alford, the company’s president, has said it is responsible for over $5 billion of energy projects in Central and North America.

He’s also suspected of transmitting fraudulent documents to Versant to make the company believe he had legitimate purchase agreements and accounts receivable with various entities, state officials said. Alford was attempting to sell the accounts receivable to Versant in exchange for $1,798,327, investigators said.

According to Versant Funding’s website, it assists companies in need of immediate working capital. Companies sell their debts to Versant and for a fee it will collect the money for the invoice. A company official declined an interview request Thursday afternoon.

Alford contacted Versant Funding two weeks ago to seek financing for his business. Alford and Versant had never done business before, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation but not authorized to speak about the case. Versant spotted some irregularities with the invoices and contacted the University of Georgia for verification, the source said. The Georgia Attorney General’s Office contacted Versant, which verified Alford’s paperwork was apparently fraudulent, the source said.

State officials would not say Thursday the name of the person whose signature was allegedly forged. A University System spokeswoman said Versant Funding has never had any contracts with the System. The University System and GBI referred questions to the state Attorney General’s Office.

Alford was first appointed to the Board, which oversees operations for Georgia’s public colleges and universities, in 2012. Alford, who holds an electrical engineering degree from Georgia Tech, previously served five terms in the Georgia House of Representatives.

Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement Thursday: “Every state official must follow the highest ethical standards in all aspects of their conduct. That is why I demanded, and received, Dean Alford’s resignation from the Board of Regents, effective immediately. The Attorney General and Georgia Bureau of Investigation will conduct a complete and thorough investigation.”

Alford, who was reappointed to the board in July, sent Kemp a two-sentence resignation letter.

“Please accept my letter of resignation from the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. It has been an honor to serve the State of Georgia.”

Alford’s wife, Debbie Dlugolenski Alford, said through a spokesman Thursday that she was planning to file for divorce. Dlugolenski Alford, the former chief executive of the Georgia Lottery, is “shocked” by the allegations, said her spokesman, Brian Robinson.

Under state law, the governor has the authority to appoint Regents members. A position on the 19-member board is considered one of the plum appointments in state government. Alford was appointed to represent Georgia’s 4th Congressional District, which includes portions of DeKalb, Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale counties.

Georgia Board of Regents chairman Don Waters said: “The allegations brought against Dean Alford, who resigned from the Board today, are shocking and deeply upsetting. We will continue assisting law enforcement in any capacity necessary throughout the investigation.”

Alford’s photo and biographical information was removed from the University System’s website Thursday afternoon.

In addition to his work in state government, Alford helped start the Miracle League, an association that provides baseball fields for children with mental and physical disabilities. The first Miracle League field opened in Conyers in 2000. The program has since grown to more than 240 Miracle League fields in the U.S. and Canada, serving more than 200,000 children and adults.

In February, Kemp said Alford and two other Regents members were wrongly reappointed to the board before Gov. Nathan Deal left office in January. Kemp replaced the two other board members in July, but kept Alford.