FBI arrests Tennessee state Rep. Glen Casada and former chief of staff over federal charges

Tennessee state Rep. Glen Casada and former chief of staff Cade Cothren face a 20-count indictment

Following an indictment charging them in an alleged bribery and kickback conspiracy, the FBI arrested a Tennessee Republican state senator and his former chief of staff on Tuesday morning.

Tennessee state Rep. Glen Casada, 63, of Franklin, Tennessee, and his former chief of staff Cade Cothren, 35, of Nashville, were indicted Monday by a federal grand jury for allegedly conducting a sham constituent mailing scheme to profit themselves, according to the Justice Department.

According to The Tennessean, the 20-count indictment comes after a months-long federal corruption probe and marks the first time in state history that a current or past Tennessee Speaker of the House has been prosecuted. Casada, once one of the most influential Republicans in the state General Assembly, did not run for re-election this year and resigned as House speaker in 2019 after allegedly exchanging graphic and racist text messages with Cothren when he was his chief of staff.

In January 2021, the FBI raided Casada’s home and offices, and in March of this year, politicians and legislative staff were served with grand jury subpoenas in connection with the corruption investigation. Rep. Robin Smith of Tennessee resigned from the seat in March after being implicated in an alleged wire fraud scheme involving Casada and pleaded guilty to federal charges. 

State Rep. Glen Casada attends a House session in Nashville, Tennessee, on Jan. 14, 2020. 

Beginning around October 2019, while representing Tennessee House District 63, Casada, Cothren, and another unnamed conspirator — also a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives — allegedly engaged in a fraudulent scheme to enrich themselves by utilizing Casada and the other conspirator’s official positions as legislators to have “Phoenix Solutions” approved by the state as a mailer program vendor to provide constituent mail services to members of the Tennessee House of Representatives.

According to a 20-count indictment released Tuesday, Casada, Cothren, and the other conspirator also attempted to secure state monies for Phoenix Solutions, Casada’s political consulting firm, and the other conspirator’s political consulting firm. Casada and the other conspirator reportedly enriched themselves as part of the scheme by getting 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 the other conspirator told members of the Tennessee General Assembly that Phoenix Solutions was run by an individual named “Matthew Phoenix,” an experienced political consultant who had previously worked for a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm. 

In fact, Cothren operated Phoenix Solutions, and Casada, Cothren, and the other conspirator knew that “Matthew Phoenix” was a fictitious person and secretly profited from the fraudulent venture. 

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, with the intent of secretly funneling money from the state to Phoenix Solutions through these companies’ bank accounts.

According to the Justice Department, those companies and Phoenix solutions got around $51,947 from the state in mailer program payments in 2020.

Casada and Cothren are charged with conspiracy to commit theft from federally funded programs, bribes, and kickbacks related to federally funded programs, honest services wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Casada and Cothren are also charged with using a fictitious name to commit fraud, theft involving federally funded programs, eight counts of money laundering, six counts of honest services wire fraud, and two counts of bribes and kickbacks.

The indictment also includes a forfeiture allegation in which the US seeks to recover the proceeds of the crimes, including a monetary judgment for the value of the revenues connected to any offense of conviction. Casada and Cothren face up to 20 years in jail if convicted.

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