Rhea County executive plans plea deal in federal wire fraud case
Rhea County executive plans plea deal in federal wire fraud case

Rhea County Executive George Thacker this week agreed to plead guilty to a criminal wire fraud charge related to the unlawful receipt of more than $500,000 in federal coronavirus aid.

The federal charge could result in up to 20 years in federal prison and the county executive will resign from office the moment he returns the final plea, his attorney said Friday.

According to federal court documents filed Thursday in federal court in Chattanooga, Thacker, as the owner of local company Thacker Corporation, agreed Wednesday to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud related to obtaining two Paycheck Protection Programs, or “PPPs.” loans, through the Small Business Administration, and an Economic Disaster Loan (EIDL), totaling $665,600.

Thacker devised a scheme to defraud and obtain money and property through materially false and fraudulent claims, representations and promises regarding the receipt and use of loan funding which he used to invest in the cryptocurrency, the plea agreement says.

(READ MORE: Two men sentenced to jail in Rhea County child sex abuse cases)

U.S. Attorney’s Office officials declined to comment on the case when contacted by phone Friday.

Thacker did not respond to requests for comment on Friday, but his attorney, Lee Davis, said Thacker would have another hearing to formally plead guilty to one count of wire fraud before Magistrate Judge Christopher Steger.

The hearing is expected to take place by the end of the month, he said.

“I think it’s important to emphasize that this relates to the activities of George Thacker and in no way relates to Rhea County as county executive or any other Rhea County fund,” Davis said Friday during a hearing. ‘a telephone interview. “Once Mr. Thacker was approached by the government with these irregularities, he cooperated fully with the Secret Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in this investigation.

“He is expected to resign from his position in Rhea County no later than the court date,” he said. Thacker first took office in 2010.

The Chattanooga federal court docket schedule on Friday did not reflect a court date for Thacker.

In 2020, Thacker applied for and received a $257,800 PPP loan on May 4 and a $150,000 EIDL loan from Business Administration on May 16, the agreement says. On February 5, 2021, he applied for and received another $257,800 PPP loan. Thacker made representations when acquiring the loans that the money would be used to continue Thacker Corporation’s operations in the wake of the pandemic, according to the agreement.

But after receiving the loans, Thacker transferred the funds to his personal checking account. specifies the agreement. Thacker transferred PPP and EIDL loan funds to a personal investment account he maintained with E*trade, an online investment company, and also transferred over $200,000 of loan to a personal account maintained with Coinbase Inc., an online cryptocurrency exchange platform.

Thacker used money from the account to buy Bitcoin, Ether and other cryptocurrencies, the agreement says, and he admits in the document that he used interstate wired communications as part of the scheme. .

The Cares Act is a federal law enacted in March 2020 to provide emergency financial assistance to people experiencing the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the agreement. One of the sources of the Cares Act relief was the authorization of up to $349 billion in repayable loans to small businesses for job retention and other defined expenses under the program. to protect workers’ paycheques. In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional PPP funding.

The EIDL program was an SBA program under the Cares Act that provided low-interest loans to small businesses, tenants and homeowners in response to the impact of the pandemic, the agreement says. The program provided loans of up to $2 million to eligible small businesses suffering financial hardship due to the pandemic.

This isn’t Thacker’s first brush with the law. In 2011, Thacker was cited in Knoxville for condescending to a prostitute during a police undercover. He received diversion in the case two weeks after being charged.

As part of the deal, Thacker will have to repay the funds and also cooperate to return to the government any property the money was used for.

Contact Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.

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