The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will have a press conference this afternoon (Thursday, February 16) to discuss an investigation into fraudulent liens and arrests made in East Tennessee.
It’s not clear how many arrests were made or where, and who was arrested. But WYSH Radio in Clinton reported that local, state, and federal law enforcement officers assisted the TBI in arresting a suspect in South Clinton on Wednesday.
Oak Ridge Today received a report that the TBI and Federal Bureau of Investigation were both at the Anderson County Courthouse in Clinton on Wednesday during the trial for Lee Harold Cromwell. Cromwell is a 68-year-old Oak Ridge man convicted Wednesday in Anderson County Criminal Court of vehicular homicide and aggravated assault for a fatal parking lot crash at the Midtown Community Center after fireworks in Oak Ridge on July 4, 2015. It has been alleged, including in court hearings, that Cromwell is a sovereign citizen, or someone who might not recognize certain government authorities, although neither he nor his defense attorney have acknowledged in court hearings that he is.
Officials haven’t confirmed whether the investigation into fraudulent liens by the TBI includes the $137 million in liens filed by Cromwell against local law enforcement, the Internal Revenue Service, or Social Security, but they did announce after his convictions on Wednesday that Cromwell had been indicted in Davidson County, where the TBI is based. Cromwell’s bail was revoked, and he was immediately taken into custody.
Some charges against Cromwell involved forgery, officials said Wednesday. Some were Class A felonies, the most serious in Tennessee, while others were Class E felonies, officials said.
Some of the liens filed by Cromwell have been terminated. Those filed against local law enforcement officers and agencies were all filed after the fatal crash on July 4, 2015. Anderson County Circuit and Criminal Court Judge Don Elledge, named in several liens, recused himself from the case because of the liens, and he vowed to do everything he could legally, morally, and ethically to prosecute Cromwell “criminally and civilly to the full extent of the law.”
In July, Elledge said he had already discussed the liens filed against him by Cromwell with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a federal task force, the Seventh District Attorney General’s Office (the Anderson County DA), and local legislators.
A judge warned Cromwell last summer that filing a fraudulent lien is a Class E felony in Tennessee. It’s not clear if filing a larger lien, of $4 million or $8 million, as Cromwell has, might increase the severity of the charges.
On Wednesday, the TBI said the indictments that will apparently be discussed Thursday afternoon are sealed. The press conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. Central time Thursday, February 16, at TBI Headquarters in Nashville. Among those scheduled to speak are TBI Director Mark Gwyn, TBI Deputy Director Jason Locke, Assistant Commissioner Tennessee Safety and Homeland Security Rick Shipkowski, and 20th District Attorney General Glenn Funk.
Clinton Police Chief Rick Scarbrough told WYSH Radio in Clinton that the Clinton Police Department was one of several agencies that assisted the TBI in serving an arrest warrant on a person at a home on Beechwood Road in South Clinton on Wednesday morning. It’s not clear if that arrest was part of the TBI investigation into fraudulent liens.
After the wanted individual was taken into custody without incident, authorities believed that a second wanted individual might be on foot in the area near Beechwood and Portwood Roads, and the CPD issued a Code Red alert for individuals in that area advising them to stay indoors while the search continued, the radio station reported.
Officials at South Clinton Elementary School, acting out of an abundance of caution, locked the exterior doors and kept students inside for recess. Scarbrough said Thursday morning that at no time were students ever in any danger, and that the school was never placed on lockdown.
The second suspect was not located in South Clinton, but was apprehended Wednesday afternoon in the Powell area, WYSH Radio said. The Code Red alert was lifted for the affected area at around 5:30 p.m.
In addition to units from the CPD and Tennessee Highway Patrol—whose contingent included a helicopter—officers from the TBI, Anderson County Sheriff’s Department, and the FBI were said to have been on the scene.
The names of the people arrested, and the charges against them were not immediately available.
Local authorities referred questions to the TBI, which led the operation.
At least three THP vehicles were parked in a parking lot near the Anderson County Courthouse in Clinton on Wednesday, along with units from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
Some information in this report came from WYSH Radio in Clinton, an Oak Ridge Today news partner.
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