Former Nashville U.S. Attorney and Former Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Correction Sentenced in Federal and State Courts for Mail Fraud Scheme Victimizing Black Farmers
Jackson, TN – Quenton Irwin White, the former U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee as well as the former Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Correction, has been sentenced to federal prison for a mail fraud scheme to defraud black farmer clients. U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant for the Western District of Tennessee announced the sentence today.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee charged that from September 2013 through October 2016, and after his term as U.S. Attorney, Quenton Irwin White 57, while in private practice as a licensed attorney in Nashville, Tennessee, sent postcards soliciting business from successful claimants in the class action case, "Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation." In the class case, successful claimants would receive an award of $62,500 because of USDA discriminatory loan practices. USDA would send $12,500 to IRS, with each claimant to receive $50,000. White did not distribute the $50,000 and used it for his own personal benefit. White entered a guilty plea on October 13, 2017, before Chief Judge S. Thomas Anderson.
U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant said: "Mr. White used his privilege to practice law and a position of fiduciary trust to commit crimes of fraud and dishonesty that victimized vulnerable black farmers and their families for his own selfish personal gain. Nobody is above the law, and as a former U.S. Attorney and State Correction Commissioner, he should have known better. We are thankful for the partnership with the 25th Judicial District Attorney General’s Office in working together to hold White accountable in both federal and state courts for the betrayal of his professional oath, and we are glad to achieve justice for the victims in this case."
On three separate occasions, White was hired as the attorney to represent the estates from the Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation. At each transaction, the USDA would provide the $50,000 check to White, who in turn would deposit into the White Law Group’s escrow account. When claimants inquired about their funds, White would send a letter explaining that the funds were unavailable and the estate could not be closed. In another instance, White wrote checks to the heirs of a claimant, but checks were not honored by the bank due to insufficient funds in the escrow account.
25th Judicial District Attorney General Mark Davidson said: "Quenton I. White defrauded black farmers of over $45,000 on the front steps of the Fayette County Courthouse. He was subsequently prosecuted and convicted in Fayette County Circuit Court of three (3) felony counts of passing worthless checks and is serving jail time for those offenses, in addition to being ordered to pay restitution to his victims. As their attorney, and a former U.S. Attorney and Correction Commissioner, White abused a position of trust and further victimized minority victims of discriminatory loan practices. His State and Federal convictions and sentences demonstrate that such criminal activity will not be tolerated in the 25th Judicial District. We are thankful for our partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to achieve justice for these victims and deter others from such criminal conduct. We also thank the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office for their investigation of these crimes."
On Friday, March 30, 2018, U.S. District Court Senior Judge S. Thomas Anderson sentenced White to 1 year and 1 day incarceration in federal prison, with 2 years supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $141,000 in restitution to the victims.
In addition to the federal case, White pleaded guilty in the Circuit Court of Fayette County, TN, to 3 Class C felonies for issuing 3 worthless checks that totaled $50,000. He was sentenced to a total effective state sentence of nine years, suspended after service of 180 days in the Fayette County Jail; supervised state probation; and payment of restitution to the victims in the total amount of $50,000. The state sentence was ordered to run concurrent to the federal sentence for the same criminal conduct. White was also disbarred from the practice of law by the Tennessee Supreme Court related to the conduct in this case, including misrepresentations to clients, misuse of clients’ monies, and failing to protect client’s property and funds.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, and the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Victor L. Ivy prosecuted this case on the federal government’s behalf. Assistant District Attorney General Falen Chandler prosecuted the case on behalf of the State of Tennessee.