Operation Tennessee Waltz
Operation Tennessee Waltz was a sting operation set up by federal and state law enforcement agents, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The operation led to the arrest of seven Tennessee state lawmakers and two men identified as "bagmen" in the indictment on the morning of May 26, 2005 on bribery charges. The FBI and TBI followed these arrests with an additional arrest of two county commissioners, one from Hamilton County, and the other a member of the prominent Hooks family of Memphis. Investigators also arrested a former county administrator.
The name of the operation comes from the state song of Tennessee, "The Tennessee Waltz."
From East Tennessee
- William Cotton -- Hamilton County County Commissioner member, Chattanooga
- Sentenced to 3 years in the Edgefield Federal Correctional Institution, 3 years probation, and a fine of $9,500 on May 2, 2006
- Ward Crutchfield—State Senator, Chattanooga
- Pleaded guilty to one count of bribery in July 2007
- Charles Love—Hamilton County school board member and lobbyist, Chattanooga
- Chris Newton -- State Representative, Benton
- Sentenced to 1 year in prison in early 2006
From West Tennessee
- Kathryn Bowers—State Senator, Memphis
- Pleaded guilty to one count of bribery July 16, 2007
- Roscoe Dixon—Former State Senator, Memphis
- John Ford—State Senator, Memphis
- Convicted of bribery in April 2007
- Michael Hooks, Sr. -- Shelby County County Commissioner, Memphis
- Pleaded guilty to one count of bribery August 21, 2006
- Barry Myers—Memphis
- Calvin Williams—Former Shelby County County Administrator, Memphis
Execution of the operation
In 2003, federal agents approached the legislator posing as representatives of E-Cycle, a bogus company supposedly based out of Atlanta that disposed of outdated electronic equipment. They asked the lawmakers to support legislation that would advance the company's business in Tennessee. All who were arrested agreed to do so if they were to be paid for their introduction of legislation in the Tennessee State Legislature. John Ford supposedly said, "I'm the man who makes the deals."
Over the course of two years, E-Cycle legislation made its way through Tennessee state government and almost passed, even though E-Cycle did not exist at all. On May 24, two days before the arrests, State Representative Newton voted to table the House bill in question, thus stalling it in committee.
Those who were arrested took bribes from E-Cycle in different amounts. The largest bribe was $55,000, which was taken by John Ford. Other lawmakers took bribes anywhere from $2,500 to $15,000. Barry Myers and Charles Love were to be the bagmen for the operation. In other words, they would take the money from E-Cycle and give it to the lawmakers, so that no one could potentially see the lawmakers being directly paid by E-Cycle.
In addition to bribery, Ford also faced charges of witness intimidation. During a visit by the disguised federal agents, Ford allegedly said, "If you're FBI, I will shoot you and kill you." Ford's lawyer, however, has argued that, taken in context, the statement was clearly a joke. Overall, Ford faced the most serious charges of anyone indicted in the operation and was convicted in April, 2007. (For more information on John Ford's troubles with the law, see John Ford.)
In the May 26 edition of the Chattanooga Times-Free Press, an article appeared about Charles Love, reporting that he owed almost $300,000 in back taxes and that the Internal Revenue Service had placed liens against his home. The article also mentioned E-Cycle in passing, as if it were a real company, possibly at the request of the FBI or TBI, to help confirm E-Cycle's seeming legitimacy.
Timeline of FBI's Operation Tennessee Waltz
- June 26, 2003
Barry Myers had a conversation in which he indicated to an individual that then-Representative Kathryn Bowers needed to be paid money in order to support legislation. Also, Myers indicated that State Senator Roscoe Dixon needed to be paid money to support legislation.
- January 8, 2004
In Memphis, Roscoe Dixon had a conversation with a representative of E-Cycle in which legislation concerning the disposal of outdated computer equipment was discussed.
- January 20, 2004
In Memphis, Barry Myers discussed with a representative of E-Cycle the legislation that a company recycling computers would need.
- January 21, 2004
Roscoe Dixon filed Senate Bill 2500, which concerned surplus electronic equipment.
- January 24, 2004
In Nashville, Roscoe Dixon had a conversation with a representative of E-Cycle concerning Senate Bill 2500.
- February 6, 2004
Barry Myers and Roscoe Dixon had a conversation with a person representing E-Cycle. This individual indicated to Myers and Dixon that the provisions of Senate Bill 2500 were not sufficient and that E-Cycle wanted a bill more favorable to E-Cycle. Dixon was told that a proposed bill would be written up and that some money would be available to him. Dixon indicated that the E-Cycle representative should "work through Barry, keep Barry happy."
- February 11, 2004
Roscoe Dixon indicated to an individual that he wished to have faxed to his office the bill which was desired by E-Cycle.
- February 12, 2004
In Memphis, a representative of E-Cycle met with Roscoe Dixon and Barry Myers and indicated that he had $6,000 for them. During this conversation, Dixon indicated that Myers was the person who should be paid. Dixon took $1,000 from the meeting. Myers indicated to the E-Cycle representative that he (Myers) would be taking the rest of the cash to Dixon and would be getting $1,000 for himself.
- February 18, 2004
In Nashville, Kathryn Bowers was introduced to a representative of E-Cycle and discussed a bill which was then pending in the Tennessee Senate concerning the disposal of outdated computer equipment.
- February 22, 2004
Barry Myers had a conversation with the E-Cycle representative who had paid $6,000. Myers told the E-Cycle representative that Roscoe Dixon told him (Myers) that the E-Cycle representative would take care of him (Myers).
- March 5, 2004
Roscoe Dixon met with a representative of E-Cycle and discussed the bill which E-Cycle wished to be passed. Dixon indicated that he would pull the bill that he had originally filed. Dixon received $1,500 for his assistance in pulling Bill 2500.
- March 15, 2004
Roscoe Dixon was confronted by a representative of E-Cycle, concerning the fact that the bill which he was to withdraw had not been withdrawn. When Dixon was asked what E-Cycle was paying him for, he responded that E-Cycle could be told that the bill was withdrawn.
- March 18, 2004
Roscoe Dixon had a phone conversation with Barry Myers and the representative of E-Cycle who has been paying Dixon and Myers money on behalf of E-Cycle. They discussed the fact that Dixon would soon have the bill pulled. Myers was told that if the bill was not pulled that the money would be cut off to him and Dixon. Myers assured the E-Cycle representative that the bill would, in fact, be pulled.
- March 22, 2004
Roscoe Dixon withdrew Bill 2500 concerning surplus electronic equipment. Barry Myers had a conversation in Memphis, in which he stated that Kathryn Bowers "wants some money." During the conversation, Myers stated that Bowers was "asking for three." In Nashville, Bowers had a conversation with a representative of E-Cycle concerning Myers' proposal to pay Bowers $3,000. During the conversation, Bowers indicated that she had already discussed the proposal to pay her with Myers.
- March 23, 2004
In Memphis, Barry Myers had a conversation with an E-Cycle representative. Myers indicated that Kathryn Bowers would not accept money directly from the E-Cycle representative, but that the money should go through him (Myers).
- March 26, 2004
Barry Myers had a conversation in Memphis with an E-Cycle representative and discussed the manner in which Kathryn Bowers would be paid money. The representative of E-Cycle and Myers went to Bowers' residence, at which time the representative of E-Cycle told Bowers that E-Cycle needed co-sponsorship on the legislation. Bowers indicated to him "you don't need to explain it, just tell me what you need me to do." After leaving Bowers' residence, Myers discussed the fact that Bowers would not discuss money directly with the E-Cycle representative but only with Myers.
- March 29, 2004
Barry Myers received the sum of $3,000 from a representative of E-Cycle and passed this money to Kathryn Bowers at her residence in Memphis.
- April 6, 2004
Kathryn Bowers had a phone conversation with an E-Cycle representative and indicated that she would sponsor a bill to benefit E-Cycle.
- April 19, 2004
Sen. John Ford spoke to an individual concerning E-Cycle. The individual explained to John Ford that this corporation would benefit if a bill were proposed in the Tennessee General Assembly, dealing with the disposal of outdated electronic equipment. During the course of this conversation, John Ford stated to the individual that "You are talking to the guy that makes the deals."
- May 10, 2004
Roscoe Dixon had a telephone conversation in which he told the E-Cycle representative to do whatever he can to "help Barry."
- May 14, 2004
In Memphis, Barry Myers received a $2,000 payment from an E-Cycle representative. Myers told the E-Cycle representative that "Roscoe is solidly on board." Myers also stated that Dixon would do anything needed. Myers reassured the representative that the money he (Myers) was receiving was going to Dixon but that Dixon would not acknowledge it and would only thank the individual for giving it to Myers. Myers had a phone conversation with Dixon in which he told Dixon that he wanted to let Dixon know that E-Cycle had taken care of him, so that Dixon could thank the E-Cycle representative.
- July 17, 2004
John Ford had a conversation in Miami, Florida, with an individual representing E-Cycle, in which Ford indicated that it would be necessary to pay him $3,000 to $5,000 dollars a month in order to gain his assistance.
- July 30, 2004
Charles Love had a telephone conversation with an E-Cycle representative and indicated that he could deliver cash to Sen. Ward Crutchfield. Love also indicated that he could deliver cash to Rep. Chris Newton.
- August 19, 2004
In Memphis, Kathryn Bowers received a $2,000 cash payment from an E-Cycle representative. Bowers indicated that she would keep working on behalf of E-Cycle. Also, in Memphis, John Ford was provided with information containing what was represented to Ford to be changes in state law that would be needed by E-Cycle in order for the company to profit. Ford was also told that the state law should be changed so that it focused on giving E-Cycle more exclusivity in being able to obtain a state contract. Ford stated that he would be drafting and sponsoring legislation to benefit the company. Ford received the sum of $10,000 in cash as two-months payment for drafting the legislation.
- August 20, 2004
Charles Love had a meeting in Memphis with E-Cycle representatives. During the course of this meeting, Love indicated that if E-Cycle had "gifts to bear" they would get more attention concerning the legislation which they supported. Love further indicated that he had worked in the past "bearing gifts" to legislators, including Ward Crutchfield and Chris Newton. Love further discussed the fact that he would initially need approximately $15,000 to pay these legislators and that Crutchfield and Newton would need more money than some others.
- August 25, 2004
Kathryn Bowers agreed to put on her official letterhead a letter recommending E-Cycle and discussing the benefits of the company.
- September 7, 2004
John Ford caused a fax to be sent from Nashville to Atlanta to E-Cycle concerning the draft of legislation.
- September 8, 2004
Charles Love and a representative from E-Cycle met with Chris Newton in Chattanooga. They discussed payments to defendant Newton. Charles Love and a representative from E-Cycle met with Ward Crutchfield in Chattanooga. Love explained to Crutchfield that E-Cycle had a bill which it wished to have Crutchfield support.
- September 9, 2004
Charles Love had a telephone conversation with an E-Cycle representative and indicated that he (Love) had personally talked to Ward Crutchfield and that it would take "three" for Crutchfield to support the bill.
- September 12, 2004
Charles Love had a telephone conversation with a representative of E-Cycle and discussed that Ward Crutchfield would need $3,000. The E-Cycle representative indicated that he would be faxing a copy of the bill to Chris Newton which E-Cycle wished Newton to sponsor. The E-Cycle representative indicated that he would talk to Newton by telephone on the next day. At this time, Love indicated that Chris Newton would probably need $1,500 in order to support the bill.
- September 14, 2004
Charles Love received a wire transfer from the Western District of Tennessee to his bank account in Chattanooga in the amount of $6,500. Love had a conversation with an E-Cycle representative and indicated that he would be going to see Chris Newton and acknowledged that Newton was to receive $1,500 for supporting E-Cycle's legislation. Love met with Ward Crutchfield in Chattanooga and paid him $2,500 on behalf of E-Cycle in order to gain his support for legislation proposed by E-Cycle. Love had a telephone conversation with an E-Cycle representative and indicated that he would be going to Crutchfield's office and giving the cash to one of Crutchfield's staff people.
- September 16, 2004
Charles Love met with an E-Cycle representative and indicated that he (Love) had met with Ward Crutchfield on September 14, 2004, and that Crutchfield would sponsor the bill. Love further indicated that he had given Ward Crutchfield $3,000 for Crutchfield's support of E-Cycle's proposed legislation. Love further stated that Crutchfield would not indicate that the cash came from E-Cycle and that he had given it to Crutchfield through Crutchfield's administrative assistant. Crutchfield met with a representative of E-Cycle and thanked him for "being my friend." At this time, Crutchfield indicated he would co-sponsor the bill. Charles Love and an E-Cycle representative met in Chattanooga. Love told the E-Cycle representative that he had met with Newton the day before and that Newton would co-sponsor the bill which E-Cycle wished to be passed. During that conversation, the defendant Love acknowledged that Newton received $750 and was due another $750. Newton had a meeting with an E-Cycle representative in Cleveland and during that time acknowledged that he had spoken to the defendant Love concerning the bill in question. During the course of this conversation, Newton acknowledged to the E-Cycle representative that Love was taking care of him.
- September 17, 2004
Charles Love had a telephone conversation with an E-Cycle representative and indicated that he had met with Newton and given him the remaining $750 of the initial $1,500 which was owed. Love had a telephone conversation with an E-Cycle representative and indicated that Crutchfield would need to be given more money. In Memphis, John Ford had a meeting with an individual representing E-Cycle. They discussed the bill which John Ford was proposing, drafting and sponsoring on behalf of E-Cycle. At this time, Ford received an additional $5,000 in cash payment for filing the bill and making sure it passed.
- September 24, 2004
Charles Love had a conversation with an E-Cycle representative and indicated that E-Cycle needed to give Newton more money.
- September 28, 2004
Charles Love had a conversation with an E-Cycle representative and indicated that he needed $1,000 for Newton. Love discussed that Ward Crutchfield would need $2,000.
- October 5, 2004
Charles Love had a telephone conversation with an E-Cycle representative and indicated that Ward Crutchfield had agreed to be paid $2,000.
- October 8, 2004
Charles Love and an E-Cycle representative had a telephone conversation in which Love indicated that Ward Crutchfield was owed $2,000.
- October 12, 2004
Charles Love met in Memphis with a representative of E-Cycle and had a conversion concerning how the additional $2,000 would be paid to Ward Crutchfield. During that conversation, Love indicated that he would go over to Crutchfield's office and give the money to Crutchfield by giving it to his secretary in Crutchfield's presence. Charles Love and a representative of E-Cycle traveled from Memphis to Chattanooga for the purpose of delivering money. Charles Love received an envelope with the initials "W.C." on it containing $2,000 in currency from an E-Cycle representative. The E-Cycle representative gave Love an envelope, bearing initials "C.N.," containing $1,000 for Newton.
- October 13, 2004
Charles Love and an E-Cycle representative met at Ward Crutchfield's office in Chattanooga. During that meeting, Love indicated that he had already given money to Crutchfield's secretary. Crutchfield, Love and an E-Cycle representative met in Crutchfield's office. Crutchfield told the E-Cycle representative that "we will do whatever you want us to do."
- October 14, 2004
Kathryn Bowers received a sum of $5,000 from a representative of E-cycle for her support of E-Cycle's proposed legislation.
- October 15, 2004
In Memphis, John Ford had a conversation with a representative of E-Cycle, in which Ford further discussed ways in which the proposed bill could benefit E-Cycle. Ford this time received an additional $5,000 in cash from the E-Cycle representative, in payment for Ford's support in drafting and sponsoring the bill.
- November 11, 2004
John Ford had a telephone conversation with a representative of E-Cycle. When asked if he needed anything, John Ford responded, "Yeah, send me a little money."
- November 19, 2004
Chris Newton had a meeting with an E-Cycle representative in Cleveland in which details of a bill which would benefit E-Cycle were discussed. John Ford met in Memphis with a representative of E-Cycle and received $5,000 in cash as further payment for drafting, proposing, and pushing in the Tennessee General Assembly the bill that would benefit E-Cycle.
- December 17, 2004
John Ford had a conversation in Miami with a representative of E-Cycle and further discussed the timing of the bill that Ford was to propose in the Tennessee Senate. Ford received $5,000 in cash from this individual for Ford's assistance concerning the bill.
- January 11, 2005
Kathryn Bowers indicated to an E-Cycle representative that she needed to see the bill that E-Cycle wished to have proposed. At this time, Bowers received from the representative of E-Cycle the sum of $1,500 in cash.
- January 13, 2005
Chris Newton filed House Bill 0037, the bill that would be beneficial to E-Cycle. Kathryn Bowers co-sponsored House Bill 0037. John Ford filed Senate Bill 0028 in the Tennessee Senate. This bill was the legislation which had been discussed between Ford and an E-Cycle representative, and for which John Ford had received prior payments. After filing of the bill, on January 13, 2005, Ford had a conversation with a person representing E-Cycle, indicating that certain co-sponsors should have been on the bill and certain language should have been included.
- January 19, 2005
John Ford filed Senate Bill 0094 with the changes mentioned in paragraph 11. This bill was filed as a companion bill to House Bill 0038 in the Tennessee House of Representatives.
- January 31, 2005
John Ford received a payment of $5,000 in cash from a representative of E-Cycle. This payment was for the purpose of causing Ford to continue to push forward the legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly.
- February 1, 2005
John Ford and a representative of E-Cycle had a discussion in Nashville concerning rescheduling consideration of the bill that Ford had filed. At this time, Ford agreed to reschedule the bill to be considered in the future and received a sum of $5,000 in cash as payment for working on the bill.
- February 3, 2005
In the Western District of Tennessee, John Ford did knowingly intimidate, threaten, attempt to intimidate, and attempt to threaten an individual by communicating to this individual, words to the effect that, if the individual was working with the FBI, that Ford would shoot him.
- February 15, 2005
Ward Crutchfield met with an E-Cycle representative and was handed two envelopes each containing $1,500. Crutchfield and the E-Cycle representatives discussed how they would deny the payments to Crutchfield's secretary.
- February 16, 2005
HB 0037 passed House Government Operations Committee
- March 8, 2005
HB 0037 deferred in House State Government Subcommittee to March 15, 2005.
- March 10, 2005
In Memphis, John Ford received $5,000 in cash from a representative of E-Cycle.
- March 11, 2005
In the Western District of Tennessee, John Ford did knowingly intimidate, threaten, attempt to intimidate, and attempt to threaten an individual who was at that time an FBI agent acting in an undercover capacity by indicating to this agent that, if he caught someone trying to set him up, he would shoot that person, kill them, so that there would be no witnesses.
- March 15, 2005
SB 0094 passed Senate State and Local Government Committee. HB 0037 passed House State Government Subcommittee
- March 16, 2005
John Ford had a conversation with a representative of E-Cycle and was told by this individual that it would be better for E-Cycle if the bill was put on hold until the 10th or 15 April. Ford stated that he could do that. Ford agreed to meet this individual the next day, March 17, 2005, in Nashville to receive a payment. That afternoon, Ford appeared before the Senate Ethics Committee. "For me to sit here and to be accused of violating the ethics rules is beyond me," he told his colleagues, his voice cracking.
- March 17, 2005
John Ford received $5,000 in cash for putting the bill on hold.
- March 22, 2005
HB 0037 passed out of the House State and Local Government Committee and was sent to the House Finance Committee.
- March 30, 2005
HB 0037 approved by the House Budget Subcommittee.
- April 5, 2005
HB 0037 approved by the House Finance Committee.
- April 8, 2005
In the Western District of Tennessee, John Ford did knowingly intimidate, threaten, attempt to intimidate, and attempt to threaten an individual. Ford told this individual that he wanted to make sure that both the individual and his "partner" were okay, because while he did not mind shooting the "partner," he did not want to shoot the individual to whom he was speaking. Ford had a conversation in Memphis with a representative of E-Cycle in which Ford was told that there was a possibility that E-Cycle would be sold and that it would be to this person's advantage to have the proposed legislation held up. Ford was told that the individual to whom he was speaking had a partner who was arranging the sale. After this conversation, Ford received $5,000 in cash in order to delay the bill.
- May 25, 2005
Newton withdrew HB 0037 on House floor.
- September, 2005
Chris Newton resigned as state representative and plead guilty to the charges against him.
- February 19, 2006
CHATTANOOGA — A federal jury convicted the first public official to face trial on corruption charges from the Tennessee Waltz undercover sting. Hamilton County Commissioner William Cotton, 58, was convicted yesterday on one count of conspiring with lobbyist Charles Love to obtain $4,750 in bribes in return for the commissioner supporting a resolution to benefit E-Cycle, a phony company created by the FBI for the undercover investigation. Cotton also was convicted on one count of attempted extortion but was acquitted on a second attempted extortion charge. Both charges carry up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
- June 20, 2006
- August 21, 2006
Shelby County Commissioner Michael Hooks, Sr. resigns from office and pleads guilty to accepting a $24,000 bribe, announcing, "I entered a plea of guilty simply because I am." He was the second person to plead guilty, in addition to the four previously convicted by trial. The charge carries a maximum of 10 years in prison.
- April 27, 2007
John Ford convicted on federal bribery charges.
- July 12, 2007
The last of the accused to remain in office, Senator Ward Crutchfield, Democrat of Chattanooga, pleads guilty four days before his trial was to begin. Seventy-eight years old, the charge to which he pleaded guilty carries a possible five-year sentence and $250,000 fine. He admitted to accepting a $3,000 bribe, which his defense attorney characterized as a "gratuity." He had been in the state legislature for 31 years, and his attorney stated he would resign "in due time." Crutchfield's conviction does not affect his $42,000 per year pension.
- July 16, 2007
- August 28, 2007
John Ford was sentenced to 66 months in federal prison to be followed with 2 years of supervised release.
- Former Tenn. Lawmaker John Ford Convicted of Taking Bribes Associated Press report datelined April 27, 2007; published April 28, 2007 in the Washington Post. Accessed July 16, 2007.
- County Official Pleads Guilty in 'Tennessee Waltz' Scandal. Associated Press report August 21, 2006. Accessed July 16, 2007.
- Tenn. Lawmaker Pleads Guilty to Bribery. Associated Press report July 12, 2007. Accessed July 16, 2007.
- Tenn. Lawmaker Pleads Guilty to Bribery. Associated Press report July 16, 2007. Accessed July 16, 2007.
- U.S. Indicts 4 Tennessee Lawmakers in Corruption Case New York Times, May 27, 2005
- Video of John Ford accepting a bribe from FBI informant