Robin Smith, who once headed the Hamilton County Republican Party and then the Tennessee Republican Party, was set to appear in a Nashville courtroom this afternoon to plead guilty to a federal charge.
A criminal information against her was unveiled on Monday that charges her with one count of federal wire fraud in connection with a conspiracy involving former House Speaker Glen Casada.
Afterward, she made her first appearance in Federal Court in Nashville before Judge Eli Richardson. She was allowed to remain out of jail with conditions, though the charge is a felony.
She has stepped down from her House District 26 seat.
She said in a resignation letter, "I want you to know that serving the great people of this district, and indeed, all of Tennessee, has truly been an honor. I have resigned with the deepest of humility and out of respect for the role of public service."
The charge was filed 14 months after FBI agents raided her Hixson home, as well as legislative offices.
The nine-page criminal information refers to Casada as Individual 1 and his former aide Cade Cothren as Individual 2.
Authorities said in November 2019 that Cothren set up a firm called Phoenix Consulting that was said to be headed by Matthew Phoenix, which in fact was a fictitious name and the actual operator of the firm was Cothren. The firm was set up to get payments from a program in which legislators could use up to $3,000 each per year for mailings to constituents.
Ms. Smith, who once ran a close race for the Third District Congressional seat, told legislators that Matthew Phoenix was an experienced political consultant.
The fact that Cothren was actually running the company was concealed.
Cothren set up the company in New Mexico and had correspondence sent to the New Mexico address forwarded to his home in Nashville.
The information says Reps. Smith and Casada received kickbacks from Cothren for using their influence to get Phoenix Consulting approved as an official House vendor.
A fake email account was set up for Matthew Phoenix.
Cothren sent a W9 form to the House Speaker's Office that he signed Matthew Phoenix.
Rep. Smith told Cothren in an email there was an upcoming situation with legislators that he "may have to assume the identity of Matthew again."
Cothren replied, "Matthew reporting for duty!"
Rep. Smith asked House officials why there seemed to be a problem with processing charges from Phoenix Solutions. She said she used Phoenix Solutions because of the quality of its work.
In an email on April 2, 2020, Cothren told Casada and Smith the amounts they had earned from the venture and said "checks would be cut." The Smith share was $4,143.64.
The information says Rep. Smith falsely told House colleagues that she did not make any money from Phoenix Solutions.
In fact, she got two checks from Phoenix Solutions for over $12,000 each in December 2020.
Hamilton County Republican Party officials said, "Today, we learned of the news about State Representative Robin Smith from the Tennessee Legislature. While the details are still unfolding, we are confident that residents of District 26 are in safe hands moving forward.
"Robin has a long history with the Republican Party in Tennessee and has contributed to preserving our majority. We wish Robin and her family all the best.
"We will continue talking about the issues District 26 citizens are facing like keeping CRT out of our schools and giving our citizens the best opportunity to provide for their families a better financial future."
Click here for the criminal information.