Newspaper article News Sentinel

Allison Burchett Is Again Accused in Cybercrime

Newspaper article News Sentinel

Allison Burchett Is Again Accused in Cybercrime

Article excerpt

Knox County's top prosecutor inked approval of a proposed plea deal for Knox County's former first lady in a cyberattack despite an ongoing probe of a hacking involving potential witnesses, the USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee has learned.

Allison Burchett is expected Thursday to announce at a hearing in Knox County Criminal Court whether she will take a deal to avoid trial in a 13-count indictment accusing her of a cyberattack on the estranged wife of her millionaire beau, Bandit Lites owner Michael Strickland.

That deal was offered, the USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee has confirmed, despite an open investigation into another cybercrime in which she is a suspect.

New hacking claim

USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee confirmed this week that the Knoxville Police Department is investigating a hacking complaint filed by former Bandit Lites President Pete Heffernan and his wife, Drema Heffernan. Both are potential witnesses against Burchett, ex-wife of Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, in the alleged cyberattack on Strickland's estranged wife.

KPD spokesman Darrell DeBusk said Tuesday that Investigator Andrew Olson's probe into the August hacking of the couple's Verizon and PayPal accounts is "ongoing." He declined further comment.

The Heffernans are accusing Allison Burchett and Strickland and say they have confirmed that the IP address from which the hacking was launched is one assigned to Bandit Lites. Burchett was on bond in the cyber stalking case and working as director of philanthropy at Bandit Lites at the time of the hacking.

Pete Heffernan said he met with Olson and Knox County Assistant District Attorney General Bill Bright about the hacking in November.

Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen approved a plea deal offer for Burchett in the cyber stalking case in April despite the pending probe.

A spokesman for Allen declined to comment.

"Ethical rules prohibit the district attorney's office from commenting on pending cases," spokesman Sean McDermott said.

Burchett's lead attorney, Bill Ramsey, was unavailable for comment because of a family emergency. His firm did not respond on his behalf.

Friends part ways

The USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee has obtained copies of an authorization to search the couple's hacked accounts for clues that Investigator Olson drafted on Nov. 9, email exchanges last week between the Heffernans and Olson about the case, and screenshots of the hacking notices the pair received from Verizon and PayPal. The hacker's IP address is listed on the Verizon notice and is associated with an internet provider used by Bandit Lites.

Pete Heffernan worked for Bandit Lites for more than three decades. He was serving as president last July when Strickland fired him, according to Knox County Chancery Court records.

Pending court action Heffernan filed after his termination says Heffernan's job was "eliminated," but Strickland later accused Heffernan and another former employee of paying staffers more than was authorized and awarding bonuses, including to himself, without Strickland's approval. At a May hearing in that case - in which Heffernan is challenging his right to work for another entertainment lighting firm despite a one-year non-compete clause - Strickland offered no proof of financial shenanigans, the court record shows. …

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