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Feds label extortion figure a menace, wannabe mobster

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — A Westland man charged in a sordid extortion case was portrayed as a suicidal menace and danger to the community Wednesday who used self-proclaimed mob connections to swindle a software mogul out of $2.6 million.

Terry Tackett isn't a made man, however. More of a made-up man, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Straus said Wednesday in successfully convincing a judge to keep the man locked up while awaiting trial in a extortion case involving his own daughter, an alleged prostitute.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mona Majzoub refused to grant bond to Tackett, who faces up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted of extorting software mogul Paul Vagnozzi. Tackett allegedly threatened to tell police about a threesome involving his daughter Jessica, her teenage cousin and the businessman, according to federal prosecutors.

Majzoub pointed to several allegations that Terry Tackett threatened to lynch, kill or hurt witnesses in the case and noted he violated terms of a restraining order obtained by an ex-girlfriend.

"The (restraining order) portrayed the defendant, clearly, as a menace with proclivities toward threats of unspeakable violence," Majzoub said Wednesday.

Tackett, 52, is charged in a 119-count indictment and is being held at the Wayne County Jail.

He appeared in handcuffs and leg chains minutes after his wife Kimberly Tackett, 53, was arraigned in the case and released on $10,000 unsecured bond. She is accused of trying to thwart investigators and filing a false rape complaint against Vagnozzi, the Orchard Lake software mogul.

Terry Tackett, his wife and 25-year-old daughter are accused of being involved in an extortion scheme that cost Vagnozzi almost $3 million. Vagnozzi retired in 2005 after selling his company, Rochester Hills-based Cypress Corp., for $8.7 million.

Vagnozzi met Jessica Tackett through her job as a topless dancer at BT'S Executive Club in Dearborn. He paid her for sex, including a threesome with her cousin in 2008, according to federal prosecutors.

Terry Tackett said the cousin was a minor at the time and threatened to tell police unless Vagnozzi paid money, according to the indictment.

Tackett threatened Vagnozzi, 61, by saying he had mob connections and friends in the Jokers Motorcycle Club, prosecutors said.

The alleged threats worked. Tackett spent the money on classic cars, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Jet Skis and expensive gifts for his stripper girlfriends, according to the 36-page indictment.

The joke, prosecutors said, is that the mob connections and motorcycle pals are fictitious, the prosecutor said.

"This is a strange case and the behavior, most definitely, is strange," Straus told the judge. "The concern is that this odd behavior, if released, would no longer be dormant. There is fear someone could really be hurt. He is a danger to the community."

Terry Tackett's defense lawyer Larry Shulman disagreed, saying witness reports about alleged threats are three years old.

"There simply isn't anything here indicating Mr. Tackett is a danger," Shulman said.

After the judge denied bond, Tackett's wife rubbed her temples and two supporters in the courtroom gallery started sobbing.

Outside court, Kimberly Tackett hid her face with her copy of her bond conditions.

"No comment," a male supporter told reporters outside court. "Back up. No comment."

rsnell@detroitnews.com

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