Feds indict former Tennessee GOP house speaker and top aide in 'bribery and kickback conspiracy'
FBI agent (AFP)

On Tuesday, the Justice Department announced that disgraced former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada and his former chief of staff Cade Cothren have been indicted on 20 federal charges stemming from a "bribery and kickback conspiracy."

The charges include "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 the DOJ statement, which says that "Both were arrested at their homes this morning by FBI agents and will make initial appearances before a U.S. Magistrate Judge later today."

"According to the indictment, beginning in and around October 2019, Casada ... and another conspirator, also a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives, engaged in a fraudulent scheme to enrich themselves by exploiting Casada and the other conspirator’s official positions as legislators to obtain State approval of Phoenix Solutions as a Mailer Program vendor to provide constituent mail services to members of the Tennessee General Assembly," said the DOJ. "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 ... 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 Cothren invented a fictitious person named "Matthew Phoenix" to be the face of the front, and concealed their own involvement by falsifying invoices to the state. They allegedly earned over $50,000 in fraudulent payments to their companies, paid for by Tennessee taxpayers.

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Prosecutors have been working on this case for a considerable amount of time; in March, another Republican Tennessee lawmaker, Robin Smith, was indicted on fraud charges as part of the same scheme. The current house speaker, Cameron Sexton, was also subpoenaed to testify on the matter.

Casada's tenure as Tennessee house speaker was plagued with scandal from the beginning. In 2019, he provoked outrage by staunchly defending Rep. David Byrd, a lawmaker accused of sexual assault. Later that year, Cothren admitted to snorting cocaine in government office buildings, and he and Casada were found to have sent each other sexually explicit remarks about interns and lobbyists.