Westland man in sextortion plot gets 5 years in prison

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

A Westland man who lived a lavish lifestyle by extorting more than $2 million from a businessman who was in a relationship with his daughter was sentenced to five years in prison Wednesday in U.S. District Court.

Terry Tackett, 53, extorted money from a retired Oakland County software mogul by threatening to tell police about a threesome involving Tackett’s now-deceased daughter, Jessica; her teenage cousin, and the businessman, according to prosecutors.

He also was ordered to serve two years’ supervised release and pay $606,144 to the Internal Revenue Service.

Tackett’s 2015 indictment alleges a years-long conspiracy that netted millions from software executive Paul Vagnozzi of Orchard Lake. Vagnozzi retired in 2005 after selling his company, Rochester Hills-based Cypress Corp., for $8.7 million.

In January, Tackett entered into a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office on two of the 117 counts filed against him: Money laundering and tax evasion.

In a sentencing memorandum filed June 9, the U.S. Attorney’s Office urged U.S. District Judge John Corbett O’Meara to sentence Tackett to 60 months in prison plus three years of supervised release.

Eric M. Straus, assistant U.S. Attorney, said the government opposed Tackett’s request for a probationary sentence saying it would be “far from appropriate.”

“Defendant’s conduct in this case was reprehensible. He has also threatened violence to several individuals and attempted to intimidate witnesses from cooperating with the government,” Straus said in court documents.

“Tackett lived a lavish lifestyle with his ill-gotten gains making many purchases of automobiles and other toys and spending great sums upon exotic dancers with the monies he extorted all while failing to pay any taxes thereon all and continuing to receive Social Security Disability benefits of approximately $712 a month due to a work injury suffered in 1989,” Straus wrote.

The 60-month sentence is three months below the guideline range determined by the court’s probation department which recommended 63-78 months, Straus said.

Prosecutors said the scheme, which started in 2008, was headed by Tackett, involved his wife, Kimberly Tackett, 53, and their daughter, Jessica, 25, who prosecutors say was a stripper and a prostitute.

According to a court record of the plea deal, Tackett threatened to report Vagnozzi to police for having sex with his daughter, who he stated was a minor at the time.

In late 2008, Vagnozzi made a payment of $30,000 to Tackett and continued to pay him in cashier’s checks in amounts ranging from a few thousand to $90,000. During 2010, Tackett received just over $1 million in extorted money from Vagnozzi, prosecutors said, and failed to file an income tax return with the IRS that year.

Jessica Tackett died in 2015 in Westland. Her death was ruled accidental from toxic levels of prescription and illegal drugs including cocaine and heroin. She had been charged in federal court before her death.

Tackett’s attorney, Todd Flood, asked the judge to sentence Tackett to probation with restrictions, saying Tackett took responsibility for his crimes and felt extremely remorseful for what has happened.

“The loss of his daughter, Jessica, has completely devastated Mr. Tackett,” Flood wrote in a sentencing memo. “Mr. Tackett asks the court to mercifully impose a probationary sentence.”

The judge received seven letters of support for Tackett, authored by three of his children, two siblings, a niece and an 11-year-old granddaughter.

Tackett’s wife was also charged in the case. She entered into pretrial diversion treatment Dec. 16 in which the government agreed to defer her prosecution for 12 months during which she “may demonstrate her good conduct.”

If she completes the treatment, her charges will be dismissed. If she does not, the case will go to trial.

jchambers@detroitnews.com