On August 23, the Department of Justice announced a Tennessee state representative and his former chief of staff were arrested at their homes on criminal charges of 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. 

According to court documents, State Representative Glen Casada, 63, of Franklin, and Cade Cothren, 35, of Nashville, and “another conspirator” used Casada’s and the other conspirator’s official positions as legislators to obtain state approval of Phoenix Solutions, a company approved as vendor to provide constituent mail services to members of the Tennessee General Assembly. Casada and the other conspirator are alleged to have enriched themselves by obtaining bribes and kickbacks from Cothren, in exchange for securing the approval of Phoenix Solutions.

The defendants allegedly told members of the state’s General Assembly that the company was run by a man named “Matthew Phoenix” who was described as “an experienced political consultant,” but was merely a fictious person, according to prosecutors. 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. In 2020, these companies and Phoenix Solutions allegedly received approximately $51,947 from the State in payments associated with the mailer program. 

Casada, previously one of the state General Assembly’s most powerful Republicans, did not seek re-election this year and resigned as House speaker in 2019 amid a text scandal where he allegedly exchanged explicit and racist text messages with Cothren while he was his chief of staff.

This is the first time a current or former Tennessee speaker of the House has been indicted in over 100 years, according to The Tennessean.  The 20-count indictment follows an extensive federal corruption investigation. Casada and Cothren appeared in federal court on Tuesday. Casada entered a plea of not guilty “and will present a vigorous defense at trial,” according to his lawyer.  If convicted, Casada and Cothren each face up to 20 years in prison for certain individual counts. 

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman represent clients of all types and sizes in connection with white collar criminal investigations. If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.