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‘Chum’ Tackett sentenced to state and federal terms

Former Golden Years Rest Home administrator James F. ‘Chum’ Tackett was sentenced to probation for 10 years after pleading guilty to felony theft charges in Letcher Circuit Court on Feb. 23.

Tackett, 70, of Burdine, admitted to stealing more than $300,000 in state funds intended for the care of the rest home residents. In exchange for the plea, Special Letcher Circuit Judge Ron Johnson ordered that Tackett be placed on probation for a period of 10 years and ordered him to repay $340,000 in stolen funds. Tackett paid $100,000 on Feb. 23 and has been ordered to pay $240,000 of the remainder of the restitution to former residents and the Kentucky Department of Revenue while on probation.

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Tackett admits that he used some of the stolen Golden Years money to buy five vehicles for his personal use — a GMC Hummer sport utility vehicle, a Chevrolet Silverado pickup, a Chevrolet Impala car, a Ford F-150 pickup and a Suzuki XL-7 SUV. Tackett also admits that he failed to report the stolen money on his state income tax returns from October 2003 through November 2009.

The agreement between Tackett and attorneys with the Office of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway was signed by Johnson.

“This was a sad situation and these old people, many of whom were mentally disabled as well, were taken advantage of and again,” Johnson said during the sentencing. “I make that statement because he has pleaded guilty to these matters and has admitted that he took their money. These people were in his charge and he had special responsibility to those people. I know that things are complicated by his age and health problems, but again you’re left with a situation he created. Nobody created it for him.”

Tackett pleaded guilty to one merged count of theft by failure to make required disposition of property of more than $500 (a class D felony), one merged count of exploiting more than $300 from an adult (a class C felony), one merged count of willfully filing a false tax return (a class D felony), and one count of theft by failure to make required disposition of property valued at more than $10,000 (a class C felony).

Tackett was sentenced to a prison term of two years and two days in U.S. District Court on Feb. 16 after pleading guilty to embezzling at least $113,547 in Social Security Income (SSI) checks and other funds from federal entitlement programs that were intended for patients of the personal care home. U.S. District Court Judge Amul R. Thapar agreed to the term after Tackett pleaded guilty and agreed to repay $113,547 in that case. Tackett is to report to a federal facility at 2 p.m. on April 16.

Tackett’s most recent plea is the result of a 74-count indictment returned by the Letcher County Grand Jury in April 2010 charging Tackett with stealing nearly $500,000 in federal and state funds intended for use by the rest home. The indictment charged Tackett with 66 counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of more than $ 500, one count of theft by failure to make required disposition of property of more than $10,000, one count of theft by deception of more than $10,000, five counts of knowingly exploiting of an adult for more than $300, and one count of theft by failure to make required disposition of less than $500.

The state case was prosecuted by the Office of the Attorney General. In return for Tackett’s guilty plea, the state recommended to Judge Johnson that Tackett be sentenced to two five-year prison terms on the Class D felonies and two ten-year prison terms on the Class C felonies, all to be served concurrently. However, the plea agreement also calls for the sentences to be reduced to 10 years of probation beginning upon Tackett’s completion of the two-year prison term he received in federal court.

The agreement between Tackett and the state calls for Tackett to pay the $340,000 in payments of $100,000 at the time of state sentencing and $40,000 during the first month of probation. The remainder would be paid on a monthly basis at a rate to be determined based on what Tackett can reasonably afford at that time. A $1,000 fine is also included in the state plea agreement.

The plea agreement also calls for the dismissal of an indictment against Tackett’s daughter, Kimberly Price, 42, of Booneville, who was charged with one count of complicity to theft by failure to make required disposition of property over $10,000, three counts of complicity to theft by failure to make required disposition over $500 and two counts of complicity to knowing exploitation of an adult over $300. Price served as chairperson of the board of directors at Golden Years.

Before Golden Years Rest Home was liquidated earlier this fall, it housed 44 elderly and/or disabled residents, all of whom required assistance in day-to-day activities including assistance with their financial affairs. Golden Years was funded entirely by federal benefits and state supplement income benefits for each resident.

During a period beginning in October 2003 through November 2009, Tackett committed theft of state funds totaling $306,209 by means of taking cash back from the deposits of the Commonwealth of Kentucky Department of Treasury checks by cashing checks on the accounts of Golden Years and also by buying the vehicles and other items for his personal use.

Tackett also used funds from Golden Years accounts for payments on certain mortgages attached to property that he owned personally. Tackett received two checks made out to a resident of Golden Years from a legal settlement and converted the funds to his personal benefit. In failing to report the stolen funds on his Kentucky income tax returns from 2005 through 2009, the defendant willfully failed to pay tax owed on stolen funds of $59,828.

One resident received a settlement from a lawsuit involving a medication, and Tackett admitted to stealing close to $60,000 of the settlement, leaving the resident with only about $2,000.

The Attorney General’s Department of Criminal Investigations launched an investigation at Golden Years after a complaint was received by a local ombudsman in 2009. The ombudsman said several residents had not received the $250 stimulus check that was sent to most Social Security recipients as part of the American Economic Recovery Act. The Social Security Administration and Department of Revenue also assisted with the investigation.

“I am glad to see this tragic case come to a close,” Conway said. “The residents of Golden Years Rest Home suffered while Mr. Tackett spent money intended for resident care on new vehicles, property and a lavish lifestyle. I appreciate the hard work of my investigators and prosecutors in bringing this case to a successful close and ensuring that restitution is provided to the innocent victims and former employees of Golden Years.”

Since its closing, all Golden Years residents have all been moved to alternate facilities. Conway’s Office of Special Prosecutions is handling an indictment against Jonah Tackett, the most recent administrator of Golden Years and a grandson of James Tackett. Jonah Tackett was indicted in July 2011 on charges of bribing a witness and tampering with a witness.

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