Biodiesel defendant Speight pleads guilty

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

ABERDEEN – H. Max Speight of Martin, Tenn., pleaded guilty Thursday to a $3 million-plus biodiesel fraud of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
If the Nashville School of Law graduate had gone to trial and been convicted on all 10 counts of his March 2009 indictment, he would have faced 100 years in prison and $2.5 million fines.
At the hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Mims’ disclosed to Senior Judge Glen H. Davidson that a “supplemental plea agreement” was being filed under seal, which means the public cannot access the details.
Speight’s public deal also made no mention of cooperation with federal investigators or that he would testify at the trial of his co-defendant, William T. “Tommy” Tacker II, set for Feb. 22 in Aberdeen.
With legal counsel Kevin J. Payne of Oxford, the 66-year-old disbarred attorney stood before Davidson and said he conspired to bilk the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corp. out of more than $3 million in subsidy payments for biodiesel fuel he claimed was produced at the now-shuttered Biodiesel of Mississippi refinery in Nettleton.
The crimes he admitted to reportedly occurred from 2003 to 2005.
His new maximum sentence is five years in prison and $250,000 fine. He also may be ordered to pay restitution, Mims said. The other nine counts are expected to be dismissed after he is sentenced.
When Speight was indicted, he was serving time in Tennessee for a 2008 admission that he stole more than $1 million from legal clients. Officials there did not answer a Daily Journal call about his status.
Sentencing will not occur for six to eight weeks while the U.S. Probation Service prepares a recommendation report to the U.S. District Court. He remains free on bond until then.
Speight and Tacker were partners in the Nettleton operation, which went bankrupt in 2006.
Tacker, 56, of Aberdeen pleaded not guilty to the federal charges and is free on bond. He insists he was just the operations man on site and that Speight was responsible for the company finances and reports.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.