Knox County is suing former long-time trustee Mike Lowe for allegedly participating in a scheme with two other ex-workers that bilked the county out of at least $1 million.
The lawsuit, filed last week in Knox County Chancery Court, also names, Delbert Morgan and Ray Mubarak, and two of Mubarak's companies – Tennessee Residential Services and Tennessee Real Estate Services.
Of the three former employees, only Morgan has gone to trial.
A jury in late August found him guilty of felony theft, a charge that is punishable up to 12 years in prison. He's scheduled for sentencing in mid-February.
Lowe and Mubarak each have trials set for early April.
The lawsuit stems from a state investigation launched more than five years ago.
Prosecutors say that Mubarak and Morgan were paid to do little if any work. Dubbed "ghost employees," the two each received $37,500-a-year salaries, vacation time and medical insurance for roughly four years.
Morgan served as a field auditor and Mubarak worked as an office clerk and then a field auditor. They both abruptly resigned on March 8, 2008 – about the same time Fred Sisk, Lowe's successor, took over.
In addition, court records suggest that Lowe paid Mubarak's firm roughly $400,000 in a property title search scheme from part of 2007 through mid-October 2008.
Under the plan, the Trustee's Office would pay an abstractor $50 to perform a title search and create an abstract, which details the land's ownership. Then Lowe would pay Mubarak's business $250 per abstract. Records also show Mubarak received payments for abstracts that his company did not provide to the county.
Title searches are required for all tax sales to make sure the title is clear.
Prior to Lowe, the office paid an attorney $200 to perform the same work.
The lawsuit asks for civil damages up to $10,000 for each claim, attorney fees and other damages tied to the allegations against the trio.