CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WATE) — A Tennessee man has been sentenced to prison and ordered to pay $680,000 after he used COVID-19 relief funds to buy Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies while serving as the elected County Executive for Rhea County.

George Thacker, 59, pleaded guilty to wire fraud as a part of a plea agreement, according to a release from the United State Department of Justice (DOJ).

He was sentenced to 33 months in prison and ordered to pay $665,600 in restitution plus a $15,000 fine. Thacker will be on a supervised release for three years following his release from prison.

According to court documents, Thacker submitted three fraudulent applications for PPP and EIDL relief funds for a total of $650,000 between May 2020 and February 2021. During this time he was serving as the elected County Executive for Rhea County and he was the owner of Thacker Corporations according to the DOJ.

Thacker used the funds to buy Bitcoin, Ether and other cryptocurrencies as well as fund his personal investment accounts, the DOJ said.

“COVID-19 relief fraud is a serious crime,” said United States Attorney Francis M.
Hamilton III. “Mr. Thacker’s scheme to defraud exploited a relief program designed to ease the
economic suffering of all American workers and businesses. Today, he is being held
accountable for his actions, and the Court’s sentence should demonstrate to any who are tempted to follow in his footsteps that this crime carries with it serious consequences.”

The DOJ said the case was prosecuted on behalf of the U.S. by Assistant United States Attorney Kyle Wilson, and this prosecution resulted from an investigation by the United States Secret Service.