BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A Blount County man who was charged with kidnapping a member of a prominent Birmingham business family a year ago has pleaded guilty to the crime.
Matthew Amos Burke, 35, of Remlap, pleaded guilty on Thursday to federal kidnapping and bank fraud charges. Burke is charged with kidnapping Elton Stephens Jr., the son of EBSCO Industries founder Elton Stephens Sr.
Burke is scheduled for sentencing Nov. 2, where he faces up to 17 years in prison.
According to law enforcement, Burke and Tabatha Nicole Hodges, 22, broke into a house Stephens was staying at in Jefferson County as he slept on September 11, 2020, where they stole a car, several guns, and jewelry. Hours later, they returned to the home, where they entered his bedroom and took him, forcing him to pay $250,000 for his release. Once the money was wired, Stephens was safely returned to the house.
“Burke told him that his family would be killed if he called the police about the kidnapping or the ransom,” a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Alabama read.
A few days later, Burke and Hodges were located, arrested, and charged on September 14, 2020.
Hodges is scheduled for a hearing Aug. 21 to change her plea.
With over 6,000 employees across 20 businesses around the world, EBSCO Industries remains one of the largest privately-owned companies in the country. In a report published by Forbes in 2014, the Stephens family were listed as one of the richest families in America with an estimated net worth of $4 billion.