UPDATE: Tommy Tacker gets prison time

ABERDEEN – Biodiesel entrepreneur William T. “Tommy” Tacker II of Okolona today was sentenced to 60 months in prison after his conviction to a federal fraud case.

In February, a jury found him guilty on 10 counts in a $2.88 million scheme to defraud a biofuels subsidy program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Co-defendent, disbarred Tennessee attorney Max Speight, 67, pleaded guilty to one count shortly before they were to go on trial. The prosecution’s key witness at Tacker’s trial, he hasn’t been sentenced.

Senior U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson presided at the sentencing. Tacker, 57, faced up to 50 years in prison and $2.5 million in fines.

Tacker is expected to appeal his conviction.

Tupelo attorneys Chip Davis and Rhett Wise represented Tacker during his three-day trial in Aberdeen, but he has hired new attorneys for his appeal, former Mississippi Supreme Court justices Oliver Diaz and Chuck McRae.

Tacker built a plant to produce biodiesel from soybean oil in Nettleton in 2006. 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 with a brain injury that prevented him from “doing numbers.”

Speight of Martin, Tenn., lost his license to practice law and spent time in jail after pleading guilty to stealing $1 million from real estate clients.

Read more in Tuesday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal