The Justice Department announced Tuesday that former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada (R) and Cade Cothren, his chief of staff, were indicted on federal bribery and kickback charges. Casada and Cothren were arrested at their homes by FBI agents on Tuesday morning.
Both face charges alleging money laundering and bribery; 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 DOJ said.
If Casada and Cothren sound like familiar characters, it’s because TPM covered the dynamic duo and their various scandals — involving racist text messages and efforts to get an activist jailed — back in 2019.
The 20-count indictment against the two Republican also alleges Casada and Cothren used a fictitious name to commit fraud, eight counts of money laundering, and two counts of bribery and kickbacks.
Prosecutors allege that Casada and Cothren conspired with another former state lawmaker to carry out a fraudulent scheme. According to the DOJ, the three exploited their official positions as legislators at the time to get state approval for their sketchy company, Phoenix Solutions, to be used as constituent mail services vendor for members of the Tennessee General Assembly.
Prosecutors also alleged that Casada and Cothren told members of the Tennessee General Assembly that Phoenix Solutions was run by an individual named “Matthew Phoenix,” whom they allegedly claimed was a political consultant with experience in working for a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm. However, prosecutors found that “Matthew Phoenix” was a fictitious person, and that Cothren actually operated Phoenix Solutions.
Casada, Cothren and the other conspirator — since-resigned GOP state Rep. Robin Smith — allegedly secretly profited from the fraudulent scheme. They allegedly submitted fraudulent invoices in the names of political consulting companies owned by Casada and the other conspirator to funnel money from the state to Phoenix Solutions.
The DOJ said that these companies and Phoenix Solutions received almost $52,000 in 2020 from the state in payments tied to the mailer program.
If convicted, Casada and Cothren each face up to 20 years in prison. Smith, who was also allegedly part of the scheme, resigned from the state legislature last year after pleading guilty to a wire fraud charge. She reportedly cooperated with federal prosecutors after that.
The charges against Casada and his former aide add to a series of scandals involving the pair. Casada, who was once considered one of the most powerful Republicans in the state, resigned from his speakership in 2019 amid a scandal over sexually explicit and racist text messages exchanged between Casada and Cothren. The texts also showed that Cothren used cocaine inside the statehouse.
Additionally, Casada and Cothren were embroiled in another scandal in 2019 that involved alleged attempts to get an activist tossed in jail.