Police: Former GCA athletic director stole $40k in gift cards

The former athletic director of the Greenwood Christian Academy is accused of stealing money from the school and spending it on sports betting, police say.

Devin M. Gray, 31 of Greenwood, could face a level 6 felony theft charge in connection to the reported theft of more than $42,500. Formal charges are being reviewed by the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office, Prosecutor Lance Hamner said Friday.

The GCA School Board issued a message to parents on Friday about the investigation, saying they wanted to share the news about it in advance of formal charges being filed. Gray is not mentioned by name in the message, instead referred to as a “departed staff member of the athletic department,” according to a copy of the message shared with the Daily Journal.

School officials asked for prayers due to the situation, and said the incident doesn’t threaten the school. They also said they won’t be able to comment on it further as it is still an open investigation.

“We covet your prayers in this situation and can assure you this event, though disappointing and something we have learned from, does not threaten the school and has not changed our focus of educating your kids and our students in a Christ-centered community,” the message from the school board reads.

The investigation into Gray started on May 5, when GCA’s former superintendent Mike Chitty reported that he suspected Gray stole “thousands of dollars” from the school, according to a Greenwood Police Department report. Gray was employed at GCA as the high school athletic director from June 2020 to April 2023.

School officials say Gray was given a credit card registered in GCA’s name, and over the past year, the card has been used to make over $40,000 in purchases. When asked by the school about the purchases, Gray allegedly said he was purchasing Vanilla Visa gift cards for a good cause, according to the report.

Financial records provided by the school later showed that between June 16, 2022 and Oct. 15, 2002, Gray purchased $41,325 in gift cards. Adding in activation fees, the total amount of the gift cards purchased equaled $42,564.27. All of the cards were purchased at various Walmart stores, the report says.

A week or so later, police met with GCA officials again. The superintendent said he had spoken with Gray, who said the gift cards were purchased for GCA coaches to use for their athletic teams. Gray also reportedly said he sent a box containing some of the gift cards he purchased back to Visa and was attempting to return them to get a refund, according to the report.

Another school official reached out to GCA coaches and was able to determine that they received about $1,150 in gift cards. There was still $40,175 in gift cards unaccounted for, police say.

The same school official also gave police copies of receipts Gray had submitted for the purchases. They went to the stores where the gift cards were purchased to get duplicate receipts, which showed the card activation numbers, according to the report.

After further investigation with the help of the agency that processed the activations, school officials discovered all of the cards had been redeemed at Draft Kings, a sports betting website, the report says.

Additionally, officials believed that cash was not turned in from gate and vending sales from high school sporting events and they think Gray might have taken some of it. From Aug. 22, 2022 to March 10, 2023, the middle school athletic director turned in over $15,104, while Gray turned in over $5,833.97 for high school events, according to the report.

Detectives met with Gray on May 15 about the investigation. Gray said he used to make purchases for the athletic department with the credit card before he turned it in. He said he turned in the card because of the gift cards and admitted that the purchases were his, the report shows.

Gray was asked about why he purchased the gift cards, and he said that while at an athletic conference in Tennessee, another athletic director suggested the use of gift cards as a way to fund programs and make coaches feel appreciated. He also allegedly said he purchased the cards because he didn’t want to have the finance office deal with reimbursement receipts all the time, the report says.

The gift cards were kept in a safe, Gray told police. He later said it was “likely he used them” for DraftKings, where he had an account but was trying to move on from because he didn’t want it to be a “part of our life.” He also told police he used a “good chunk of the cards,” possibly putting about $20,000 on his account, though this is a “ball park,” he said.

Detectives also asked him about the difference in the gate and vending deposits. Gray said he took one of the deposits home with him and it was allegedly stolen out of his vehicle, the report says.

When asked about whether he could have personally taken some of the cash that had come in, Gray said it “could have” happened, and that he wasn’t lying about what happened with the vehicle, the report says.

“I did not like to the level of the gift cards by any means take things and use it for that,” Gray reportedly said.

Gray was pressed further about the deposits and whether he would take any cash from them. He allegedly said he wasn’t pocketing cash every game to use for himself, but said it was “maybe a handful” of incidents where he had some in his pocket. His justification was that there were times when the money container was getting too full and didn’t want that sitting at a gate with “a high school kid.” according to the report.

He later guessed that he may have taken $2,000 over the course of the year, but that this was a “ball park” estimate, police say.

Gray later confirmed that all of the DraftKing purchases were his, and said that things just “got out of hand,” the report shows.

Gray told police he hated it for the school, and he wished he was able to resolve it. He reportedly said he had hoped that he could go to the school “with this big pot of money whether they were able to get any money back from the card company or not.”

A day after the police interview, Gray reportedly emailed the president of the GCA School Board confessing to the misuse of gift cards and asking to speak to the school board. The board president declined, the report shows.