Tacker gets 60 months, insists he's innocent

ABERDEEN – Declaring “I am innocent,” biodiesel entrepreneur William T. “Tommy” Tacker II of Okolona was sentenced Monday to 60 months in prison for his conviction to a federal fraud case.
Senior U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson also ordered him to pay $2.88 million in restitution for the money lost in the scheme to bilk the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s biofuels subsidy program.
“I ask for any mercy you can for Max Speight,” Tacker, 57, said to Davidson before he was sentenced, referring to his former co-defendant. “I have forgave him – he was not a dishonest man, he was caught up in something he couldn’t control.
“I don’t ask for anything myself because I am innocent.”
Speight, 67, a disbarred Tennessee attorney, was charged along with Tacker and was scheduled to go on trial with him in February. But in a deal with prosecutors, Speight pleaded guilty to one of the 10 counts against them and became the government’s key witness at Tacker’s trial in Aberdeen.
Speight has not yet been sentenced.
“The jury has spoken in this case,” Davidson responded to Tacker’s declaration of innocence.
Tacker faced up to 50 years in prison and $2.5 million in fines.
While Davidson did not impose any fines, he said the sentencing guidelines for stealing from the government are not nearly as severe as they would be from a private business.
In an 11-minute hearing, the judge sentenced Tacker to 10 prison sentences of 60 months, to run at the same time, and he ordered him to pay a special $1,000 court assessment.
Restitution will be paid to the USDA, the judge said, with payments to begin immediately.
He was turned over to the U.S. Marshal’s Service at the hearing’s end.
In 2006, Tacker built a plant to produce biodiesel from soybean oil in Nettleton. He and Speight were partners in the business, Biodiesel of Mississippi Inc., which went bankrupt.
Tacker contends it was Speight who handled all the business finances and perpetrated the fraud while Tacker was the on-site nuts-and-bolts guy who couldn’t “do numbers.”
Speight of Martin, Tenn., lost his license to practice law after pleading guilty to stealing $1 million from real estate clients.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Patsy Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal