FBI arrests Tennessee Republican lawmaker, former chief of staff over alleged bribery and kickback conspiracy

The FBI arrested a Tennessee Republican state lawmaker and his former chief of staff on Tuesday morning following an indictment charging them in an alleged bribery and kickback conspiracy. 

Tennessee state Rep. Glen Casada, 63, of Franklin, Tennessee, and his former Chief of Staff Cade Cothren, 35, of Nashville, were indicted by a federal grand jury Monday for allegedly running a sham constituent mailing program intended to personally enrich themselves, the Justice Department said.

Both were arrested at their homes Tuesday morning by FBI agents.

They are to make initial appearances before a U.S. Magistrate Judge later Tuesday. 

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The 20-count indictment comes following a months-long federal corruption investigation and represents the first time current or former Tennessee Speaker of the House has been indicted in state history, according to The Tennessean. Once one of the state General Assembly’s most powerful Republicans, Casada did not seek re-election this year and resigned as House speaker in 2019 after allegedly exchanging explicit and racist text messages with Cothren while he was his chief of staff.

The FBI raided Casada’s home and offices in January 2021, and in March of this year, lawmakers and legislative staff received a swath of grand jury subpoenas in connection to the corruption probe. In March, another Tennessee state lawmaker, Rep. Robin Smith, resigned from her position after being implicated in an alleged wire fraud scheme involving Casada and pleaded guilty to federal charges. 

Beginning around October 2019, Casada, while representing Tennessee House District 63, Cothren, and another unnamed conspirator — also a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives — allegedly engaged in a fraudulent scheme to enrich themselves by exploiting Casada and the other conspirator’s official positions as legislators to have “Phoenix Solutions” approved by the state as a mailer program vendor to provide constituent mail services to members of the Tennessee General Assembly.

According to a 20-count indictment unsealed Tuesday, Casada, Cothren, and the other conspirator further sought to obtain state funds for Phoenix Solutions, Casada’s political consulting business, and a political consulting business owned by the other conspirator. It allegedly was further part of the conspiracy for Casada and the other conspirator to enrich themselves by obtaining bribes and kickbacks from Cothren, in exchange for securing the approval of Phoenix Solutions as a mailer program vendor.

The indictment alleges that Casada and the other conspirator told members of the Tennessee General Assembly that Phoenix Solutions was run by an individual named “Matthew Phoenix,” an experienced political consultant who had previously worked for a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm. 

In fact, Cothren operated Phoenix Solutions, and Casada, Cothren, and the other conspirator knew that “Matthew Phoenix” was a fictitious person and secretly profited from the fraudulent venture. 

Casada, Cothren, and the other conspirator allegedly concealed their involvement in Phoenix Solutions by submitting sham invoices to the State of Tennessee in the names of political consulting companies owned by Casada and the other conspirator, for the purpose of secretly funneling money from the state to Phoenix Solutions through the bank accounts of these companies. 

In 2020, those companies and Phoenix solutions received approximately $51,947 from the state in payments associated with the mailer program, according to the Justice Department. 

Casada and Cothren are charged with conspiracy to commit theft from programs receiving federal funds; bribery and kickbacks concerning programs receiving federal funds; honest services wire fraud; and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The indictment also charges Casada and Cothren with using a fictitious name to carry out fraud; theft concerning programs receiving federal funds; eight counts of money laundering; six counts of honest services wire fraud; and two counts of bribery and kickbacks.

The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation in which the United States seeks to recover all proceeds of the crimes, including a money judgment representing the value of the proceeds traceable to any offense of conviction. If convicted, Casada and Cothren each face up to 20 years in prison. 


Source: Politics

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