Episode 208: Sterling Owen IV – Butcher Brothers Bank Failure

Retired agent Sterling Owen served in the FBI for twenty-three years. His first assignment was to the Jacksonville Division. Thereafter, he was transferred to the Chicago Field Office and in 1981, Sterling Owen, an accountant, was transferred to the Knoxville Division. In this episode of FBI Retired Case File Review, Sterling Owen reviews the Butcher Bank failure case, his nearly four-year investigation of Jake and C.H. Butcher Jr., who operated a multi-billion dollar banking empire in Tennessee and Kentucky. The brothers, using a complex loan scam to steal millions of dollars from bank clients, led lives of wealth and the power, but were eventually convicted of fraud and conspiracy and sentenced to twenty years in prison for their crimes. The white-collar crime investigation was designated major case status.

Later in his career, Sterling Owen was promoted to Supervisory Special Agent. Following retirement, he operated his own private investigations and security firm and served as a Bankruptcy Trustee in US Bankruptcy Court. He served as the Chief of Police for the City of Knoxville, TN for seven years.  In 2012 until 2016, he was appointed to serve as a Receiver in a civil case in United States District Court.

Sterling Owen has also held various positions with the local chapter and national office of The Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI.  Currently, he is serving on the Board of Directors of the Knoxville Public Safety Foundation, which provides public safety officers with financial assistance.



11/20/1972 – 3/4/1995







“They were creating a phony loan, generating phony interest, generating yet another phony loan to pay off the first phony loan, and then they were taking that interest and assigning it to the main players to deduct from their individual tax returns.”—Retired Agent Sterling Owen

The following are links to articles about the Butcher Bank failure:

New York Times – Sept. 6, 1984:  BUTCHER BANKS’ COSTLY FALL

LA Times – June 3, 1985:  Butcher Gets 20 Years in $790-Million Bank Failure

New York Times -Sept. 1, 1986:  H. BUTCHER ACQUITTED OF 25 COUNTS  


WBIR’s Our Stories: Butcher Bank Failure – Parts 1 and 2 VIDEO

Sterling Owen appears in a two-part video segment about the Butcher brothers, Jake (left) and C.H. Butcher Jr. (right) and the Butcher Bank failure by WBIR, the local news station serving East Tennessee community.







Arrest photo has Jake Butcher in center with coat over his handcuffs between Special Agents Sterling Owen on Butcher’s right and Wayne Walls on Butcher’s left.







Group photo of Major Case 45 – Butcher Bank Failure assigned personnel. L-R, Wayne Walls, SA Bob Gibson, SA Sterling Owen, SA Tom Palmer, Jim White (IRS Special Agent), Freida Trotter, SSA George Lambert, SA Bill Cole, SA Grey Steed, SA Ed Velasco and SA Jim Kasper. (SA Jim Wynne is not pictured in that he was transferred to the NY Office prior to the photo).

















Jerri Williams

View posts by Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, jokes that she writes about the FBI to relive her glory days. After 26 years with the Bureau specializing in major economic fraud and corruption investigations, she calls on her professional encounters with scams and schemers to write police procedurals inspired by true crime FBI cases in her Philadelphia FBI Corruption Squad crime fiction series featuring flawed female FBI agent Kari Wheeler. Jerri’s FBI for Armchair Detectives nonfiction series enables readers to discover who the FBI is and what the FBI does by debunking misconceptions about the FBI in books, TV, and movies. Her books are available as ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks wherever books are sold. She’s also the host of FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast with more than 250 episodes available for free on all popular podcast apps.


  1. KipJuly 29, 2020

    It’s a shame that the Butcher Brothers with such great minds for finance had to get greedy. I can’t help but wonder how many wonderful things they could of done for society if they just played it straight.

  2. Traci HannJuly 27, 2020

    Essentially what them guys were doing was “robbing Charlie to pay Paul”. Lol. Could u imagine borrowing all that $$ for “racket” like propositions?! I agree with Jerri, “how could they sleep at night..” As for the guy getting ready to testify and his working papers growing legs and wandering off, why on Earth would he choose to leave them in the car?. (especially the night before he testified;) Lol. Loved this ep. Thank you for your time in putting this together.

    1. Jerri WilliamsJuly 27, 2020

      These con men are something else!


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