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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Tennessee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 6, 2022

Former Rhea County Executive Sentenced To 33 Months' Imprisonment For COVID-19 Related Fraud

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – On October 6, 2022, George Thacker, 59, of Spring City, Tennessee, was sentenced to 33 months in prison by the Honorable Charles E. Atchley, Jr. in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Chattanooga. 

As part of a plea agreement filed with the court, Thacker agreed to plead guilty to a one-count Bill of Information charging him with wire fraud in relation to COVID-19 relief funds, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343.  Thacker was ordered to pay $665,600.00 in restitution and a $15,000.00 fine, and he will be on supervised release for 3 years following his release from prison.

In 2020, the United States Government enacted The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) in an effort to stave off negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Two related programs – the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (“EIDL”) program – provided forgivable or low-interest loans to businesses affected by the pandemic.      

According to court documents, between May 2020 and February 2021, Thacker submitted three separate fraudulent applications for a total of over $650,000 in PPP and EIDL relief funds.  At the time, he served as the elected County Executive for Rhea County, Tennessee, and the owner of Thacker Corporation, a business headquartered in the Eastern District of Tennessee.  As part of the loan application process, he certified that he would use the money for specific business-related purposes such as paying Thacker Corporation’s rent and continuing to pay his employees’ salaries.   But instead of putting the relief funds to their intended purposes, Thacker used them to enrich himself.  Among other things, he used the money to buy Bitcoin, Ether, and other cryptocurrencies and to fund his personal investment accounts.   

“COVID-19 relief fraud is a serious crime,” said United States Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III.  “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.”

"One of the Secret Service's primary roles is to protect the U.S. financial infrastructure, including pandemic related fraud. At the onset of the pandemic, fraud related to personal protective equipment was of primary concern to all law enforcement. Additionally, the release of Federal funding through the CARES Act and subsequent funding heightened this priority. The Secret Service is committed to combatting financial crime, especially in cases where fraudsters take advantage of American citizens during these trying times. The Secret Service, through its partnership with Federal and State, local law enforcement, and the private sector financial institutions, will continue to make this a primary concern for the Department," said Resident Agent in Charge Juan Alicea of the United States Secret Service (“USSS”) Chattanooga Resident Office.

The prosecution resulted from an investigation by the USSS. 

Assistant United States Attorney Kyle Wilson prosecuted this case on behalf of the United States. 

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Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Contact: 
Rachelle Barnes Public Affairs Officer (865) 545-4167
Updated October 6, 2022