George Thacker Sentenced to 33 Months in Federal Prison
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF)- Former Rhea County executive George Thacker was sentenced at a hearing this morning at the federal courthouse in downtown Chattanooga to 33 months in federal prison for committing wire fraud with PPP loans received from the CARES Act during the COVID pandemic.
Thacker had pleaded guilty to using three separate loans to invest in cryptocurrency, which was supposed to be used to help run his businesses that he owns.
His attorney in this morning’s hearing was attempting to mitigate his sentence to home arrest, arguing that he needed to be present for his employees at a hotel he owns in Spring City and that having to face the public was worse punishment than anything he could face in prison.
Federal prosecutor, United States Attorney Kyle Wilson, argued for a prison sentence by stating that with his public office, Thacker was expected to be an example citizen for Rhea County and knowingly failed at that purpose by not using the PPP loans to “keep the lights on” at his businesses.
Judge Charles E. Atchley, Jr. ultimately sided with the federal prosecutor, saying that Thacker’s actions seemed strange given his previous success in life and felt that he had purposely deceived the government and his voters.
Thacker gave a brief statement before the judge sentenced him, stating that, ” I had intended to pay back the loans, whether they were smart or dumb. I’m so sorry.”
When leaving the courthouse, Thacker nor his attorney gave any comment to the media.
In a statement from the Department of Justice, United States Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III said that, “COVID-19 relief fraud is a serious crime. Mr. Thacker’s scheme to defraud exploited a relief program designed to ease the economic suffering of all American workers and businesses. Today, he is being held accountable for his actions, and the Court’s sentence should demonstrate to any who are tempted to follow in his footsteps that this crime carries with it serious consequences. I commend the hard work of the United States Secret Service, and all involved with this prosecution. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to uncovering and prosecuting those who unlawfully exploited the COVID-19 pandemic for personal gain, and we will continue to work together with our federal law enforcement partners to ensure that any who abuse federal relief programs are brought to justice.”
In addition to his prison time, he will have to pay the federal government back more than $650,000 in restitution, which is the amount he was convicted of defrauding the federal government. He’ll also have to complete 500 hours of substance abuse treatment and three years of probation once he is released.