Former Knox County Trustee Mike Lowe Pleads Guilty-as-Charged

District Attorney Charme Allen announced today that the major target in the most significant public corruption case in Knox County history has entered a plea of guilty to theft of several hundred thousand dollars from Knox County. This afternoon before Judge Steve Sword, Criminal Court Division I, former Knox County Trustee Mike Lowe admitted his guilt to paying”ghost” employees Delbert Morgan and Ray Mubarak salaries, overtime, and full County benefits, when they in fact performed little or no legitimate work for the Trustee’s Office. In addition, Lowe admitted his guilt in a scheme to pay Ray Mubarak inflated prices for title opinions that were inadequate and in some cases did not even exist.

Lowe was sentenced to 10 years, with one year to be served in the Knox County Detention Facility and the remainder of the 10 years to be supervised by the Tennessee Department of Correction on two Class B Felony charges. Lowe agreed to pay $200,000 in restitution as his share of the loss to Knox County.

The investigation into the Lowe cases began when allegations of wrongdoing came to light in 2009 and several Trustee employees voluntarily began assisting the District Attorney’s Office and continued that cooperation when the TBI and Office of the State Comptroller became involved at then District Attorney Randy Nichols request. Nichols and Special Counsel John Gill petitioned the State Attorney General for permission to empanel an Investigative Grand Jury, a rarely invoked proceeding that gives this grand jury powers similar to a federal grand jury. The Investigative Grand Jury operated in secret, as required by state law, for almost two years. It heard extensive testimony and gathered several hundred thousand documents while it was in session.

ADA William Bright, chief of the Shelby County DA’s White Collar Crime Unit, who had also worked for the State Attorney General and State Comptroller on complex fraud cases, was recruited specifically to work with Special Counsel Gill on these cases.

General Allen said,”I was pleased to continue to commit significant amounts of our limited resources to insure this prosecution was completed. When this investigation started, there was considerable skepticism that a prosecution would result. It is my fervent hope and belief that these convictions will deter corruption in the future and end the seemingly continuous abuse of office we have seen in the last few years.”

General Allen noted the extensive investigative support of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and particularly the work of Special Agent Jamesena Rutherford.”Through her skill and commitment, Special Agent Rutherford nailed down critical evidence in these cases.” The District Attorney likewise praised the work of State Comptroller Justin Wilson’s office, particularly Investigative Audit Manager Phil Job in preparing the cases.”Mr. Job headed up the gathering and analysis of the massive collection of records and connected those records to the crimes that were committed. This work was essential to assist my prosecutors to present the evidence to a judge or juries.”

If you have any questions, please contact Sean McDermott at 865-215-2515 or [email protected]. For more information about the District Attorney’s Office, visit our website at dag.knoxcountytn.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.