Germantown Business Owner Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud

A Germantown resident and business owner has pleaded guilty to one count of failing to pay over employment taxes to the Internal Revenue Service and faces sentencing July 22.

Larry Thornton, 66, the owner and chief executive of Software Earnings Inc. and First Touch Payment Solutions LLC, entered a plea agreement with the U.S. Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Tennessee.

He faces a minimum of five years in prison and agreed to pay $10 million in restitution, according to a release from the prosecutors.

According to court documents, beginning in the second quarter of 2007, Thornton caused SEI to stop paying taxes required to be withheld from SEI employees’ paychecks. Beginning in the first quarter of 2010, Thornton caused First Touch to stop paying the taxes required to be withheld from First Touch’s employees’ pay. Between 2007 and 2011, Thornton collected more than $6.8 million in employment taxes from SEI and First Touch employees’ paychecks, but failed to pay those collected taxes over to the IRS.

Thornton also failed to pay his companies’ matching share of FICA taxes during those years, according to the release from the prosecuting agencies.

During that time, Thornton spent over $6.2 million on personal expenses, including house and condominium payments; vehicle, yacht and motorcycle loan payments; personal travel; and startup funding for his wife’s beauty boutique. As part of the guilty plea, Thornton admitted that his fraudulent conduct caused a tax loss of more than $8.9 million to the IRS.

Thornton faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine and the $10 million in restitution he agreed to in the plea agreement.

– Terry Hollahan

New Music Festival Coming to Shelby Farms

The Shelby Farms Park Conservancy and David Porter's The Consortium Memphis Music Town group are teaming up to put on a three-day, lakeside music festival at Shelby Farms Park in September on the park's new event stage.

The event, scheduled for Sept. 23-25, will coincide with the opening celebrations for Heart of the Park, Shelby Farms' biggest improvement project to date, which has been under construction since the summer of 2014.

The festival name and talent lineup will be announced in June. Porter, The Consortium MMT's founder and president, said the inaugural festival will “pair today's top performers with a community treasure, Shelby Farms Park. Plus, this venue, with its panoramic view of the newly expanded lake, will provide an unrivaled backdrop for this exciting event.”

The Heart of the Park grand opening will activate the newest amenities and opportunities at the park, which include a stage overlooking an expanded 80-acre lake, as well as LEED-designed buildings, a restaurant and cafe and more.

“We can't think of a better way to celebrate what Shelby Farms Park and the Heart of the Park project mean to Memphis than with a weekend full of music at the water's edge,” said Shelby Farms Park Conservancy executive director Jen Andrews. “We are so excited to partner with The

Consortium MMT to produce a world-class entertainment experience in Heart of the Park.”

– Andy Meek

Memphis Farmers Market Opens Season This Weekend

The Memphis Farmers Market again will be open for business starting Saturday, April 2. It will feature more than 70 vendors and is a producer-only market.

The market is open Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Nov. 19. The market is located under the pavilion at Central Station at West G.E. Patterson and South Front Street in Downtown Memphis.

Executive director Allison Cook says this year’s market will include fresh vegetables and fruits from local farms; handmade pottery and other artisan products; baked goods, including a new gluten-free baker; floral arrangements; New Orleans seafood and local Mississippi catfish; proteins such as chicken, pork, beef and smoked tofu; and prepared goods such as guacamole.

A children’s program will be offered every first and third Saturday.

“This season we’re launching Life on the Farm, a program that teaches kids about farm animals, growing crops, eating vegetables and includes a fun take-home craft. We’re excited to offer families a new way to connect with our farmers,” Cook said in a statement. “By helping kids understand where their food comes from we will help a new generation gain an appreciation for farmers and locally grown goods.”

The market growth and new programs will be funded through individual donations, returning corporate sponsors and two major fundraising events: Bacon & Bourbon on April 16 and The Crop Hop 5K on June 17.

Visit to learn more about the market and each week’s theme and events.

– Don Wade

County Commission Closes Meeting on Disparity Study

The Shelby County Commission got its first look Monday, March 28, at a disparity study it commissioned in 2014 to look at how much in county government contracts go to minority businesses.

But the meeting was closed to the public by county attorney Ross Dyer, citing possible litigation over what is a first legal step toward setting goals in county government contracting for minority business.

The commission approved $1.1 million in rearranged capital funding the county provides to Shelby County Schools for three urgent capital projects: repairing a collapsed wall at Ross Elementary and a collapsed roof at SCS’ Central Nutrition Center, and making mechanical repairs at several schools.

Next month, commissioners will begin a review of the school system’s facilities study that lists $476.4 million in critical deferred maintenance needs at school buildings over the next five fiscal years. Commissioner David Reaves says he also intends to introduce a resolution on the matter at the April committee session.

The commission also awarded local nonprofits 16 grants totaling $109,200 from a fund of $1.3 million set up last budget season for all grant requests.

Each commissioner has a $100,000 allocation they have been using since the July 1 start of the fiscal year, and commissioners frequently pool some of their funding for a particular nonprofit. The full commission must approve the grants.

Including the 16 grants approved by the commission Monday, the $1.3 million fund has a balance of $176,300.

– Bill Dries

Construction Continues on Cummins Warehouse

Renovations continue at Cummins Inc.’s new distribution center. Jolly Roofing and Contracting Co. Inc. recently filed a $944,000 building permit application for the existing 400,000-square-foot warehouse at 5800 Challenge Drive.

In August of last year, contractor Dan Walker Associates Inc. applied for a $2.7 million building permit for internal renovations to the warehouse, which is just across the street from the existing Cummins distribution facility on Quest Way.

The permit lists Exeter 5800 Challenge LLC as the owner and Cummins as the tenant.

In December of last year, ProLogis unloaded nearly 90 million square feet of its industrial holdings – including its two industrial properties housing Cummins’ distributions operations – to Exeter Property Group. ProLogis had owned the property since 2002.

– Madeline Faber

Tennessee Justice Center Seeking ‘Mothers of the Year’

For the seventh year, the Tennessee Justice Center is asking for “Mother of the Year” nominations from Memphis-area children, teens and community members. The awards honor women for their persistence and dedication in ensuring their children receive necessary health care.

Any mother, foster mother or grandmother can be nominated. Those who are selected for recognition will receive a framed certificate and appear on the Tennessee Justice Center’s website and blog.

To nominate someone, children ages 3-9 can submit a picture showing why their nominee is their health care hero, while anyone 10 and older can submit an essay of 300 words or less explaining why their nominee is their health care hero.

Submissions should include a photo of the child and their nominee with the nominee’s name, the child’s name, phone number and address. Nominations must be received by April 22 and can be mailed to Tennessee Justice Center, 301 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville, TN 37201, or emailed to

– Kate Simone