Former Golden Years Rest Home administrator James F. “Chum” Tackett has pleaded guilty to felony theft charges for the second time in less than a month — this time to stealing more than $300,000 in state funds intended for the care of rest home residents. In exchange for the plea, Tackett would be placed on probation for a period of 10 years and ordered to repay the stolen funds.
Tackett, 69, of Burdine, admits in the latest agreement 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 handed up Tuesday to Special Letcher Circuit Judge Ron Johnson. Johnson said he won’t act on the agreement until formal sentencing, which he set for February 23 at 10 a.m.
Tackett, whose state trial was to begin in Letcher Circuit Court this week, 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).
This week’s plea comes on the heels of Tackett pleading guilty in federal court last month 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. In exchange for his pleading guilty and agreeing to repay the $113,547 in that case, Tackett is expected to receive a prison term of two years and two days when sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Amul R. Thapar on Feb. 15.
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 is being prosecuted by the Office of the Attorney General. In return for Tackett’s guilty plea, the state has agreed to recommend 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 is expected to receive in federal court. Tackett would also have to pay the state $340,000 in restitution in addition to the $113,547 he will have to pay the federal government.
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, Ky., 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.
Judge Johnson said he will not rule on the proposed agreement until after he is presented with a pre-sentence investigation report at the February sentencing.
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-today 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.
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.
“While Mr. Tackett was living a lavish lifestyle, the residents at Golden Years were suffering and his personal care home was falling into disrepair and financial ruin,” said Attorney General Conway. “I appreciate the hard work of my investigators and prosecutors who worked tirelessly to protect the health and safety of Golden Year’s residents and see that justice was served in this tragic case.”
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 the grandson of James Tackett. Tackett was indicted in July 2011 on charges of bribing a witness and tampering with a witness. A pre-trial conference is set for December 7 in Letcher Circuit Court.