Tennessee’s former Republican speaker of the House Glen Casada and his chief of staff were arrested by the FBI on Tuesday on corruption charges.
The pair are accused of participating in a kickback scheme to defraud taxpayers, the DOJ said.
The conspiracy involved Casada, his chief of staff Cade Cothren, and a third unnamed conspirator.
That person is thought to be former state Rep. Robin Smith (R), who resigned earlier this year after she was charged with wire fraud.
The indictment against Casada and Cothren alleges that beginning in 2019, Casada and another lawmaker used their political influence to get state approval for a company, Phoenix Solutions, to provide mail services to members of the Tennessee General Assembly.
To hide their ties to the company, they came up with a phony contact, “Matthew Phoenix,” who they described as a seasoned political consultant. They ended up stealing $51,947 from taxpayers via the mailer program in 2020.
The indictment further claims that the group sought to obtain State funds for Phoenix Solutions and political consultancy groups owned by Casada and the other lawmaker, and that the two lawmakers sought bribes and kickbacks from Cothren in exchange for getting Phoenix Solutions approved.
Defendants face 20 years
The group funneled money to Phoenix Solutions by submitting phony invoices to the state in the names of the political consulting companies that Casada and the other lawmaker owned.
Casada and Cothren are facing 20 years apiece for 20 federal counts, including conspiracy to commit money laundering, theft from programs receiving federal funds, and bribery and kickbacks concerning programs receiving federal funds.
They each pled not guilty. Cothren’s lawyer said he would be “strongly defending the charges.”
Casada’s successor, Cameron Sexton, cooperated with federal investigators. He applauded the FBI for their work on the probe.
“In Tennessee, we will not tolerate public corruption, defrauding our state, or bribery at any level. I commend the Federal Bureau of Investigation for its hard work, diligence, and dedication that resulted in this morning’s arrests,” he said.