Tennessee’s former House Speaker, Glen Casada, 63, and his former chief of staff, Cade Cothren, 35, were arrested on federal fraud charges on Tuesday, following an extensive investigation into both men. In 2019, the previous House Speaker resigned from his position. He did not run for re-election this year and is Tennessee’s first current or former House representative to be prosecuted.
Glen Casada and Cothren appeared in federal court and pled not guilty to the accusations. If convicted, the accused may face up to 20 years in jail. Glen Casada and Cothren were indicted by a federal grand jury and charged with conspiracy to commit theft from federally funded programs, bribery, and kickbacks related to federally funded programs, honest services wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to a press release from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee.
If they can do this to Glen Casada and Cade Cothren then they can do it to anyone who uses a fictitious name to carry out a fraud; steals from federal funds; conducts money laundering; commits wire fraud; or accepts bribes and kickbacks
— Brad Batt for TN State Sanity ✊🏼✊🏽✊🏾 (@bradbatt) August 23, 2022
The relationship between Glen Casada and Cade Cothren and “Matthew Phoenix”
Federal authorities apprehended Glen Casada and Cade Cothren at their houses. The former House Speaker is accused of operating a political consultancy company under the alias “Matthew Phoenix” in order to receive monies for personal advantage.
The Department of Justice said in a news release:
“In October 2019, while representing Tennessee House District 63, Casada, Cothren, and another conspirator, also a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives, engaged in a fraudulent scheme to enrich themselves by utilizing 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.”
It went on to say:
“In actuality, Cothren ran Phoenix Solutions, and Casada, Cothren, and the third conspirator reportedly knew ‘Matthew Phoenix’ was a phony and surreptitiously benefitted from the false enterprise.”
They would submit phony invoices to the state government in the names of Glen Casada and the third conspirator’s consultancy firms. In 2020, these firms and Phoenix solutions received around $51,947 in state payments related to the mailer program. During the trial, House Speaker Cameron Sexton testified and promised authorities of his full cooperation on the subject.
“Tennessee will not tolerate public corruption, state fraud, or bribery at any level. Over the last two years, our legislative body has worked together to take major steps throughout this inquiry, including legislation to enhance campaign funding controls and new ethics standards for elected officials and employees.”
“Today is a fantastic day for Tennesseans because we did not ignore these illegal acts.”
Karen Camper, D-Memphis, House Minority Leader, stated:
“We are elected to serve the public, and when that trust is violated, it is extremely demoralizing and undermines our citizens’ faith in government.”
Camper went on to say:
“However, this highlights how urgently campaign finance reform is still required, and that bipartisan legislation that has already been approved has to go much farther.”
Casada stated in November 2021 that he will retire at the end of 2022.