Florida Rep. and Congressional Black Caucus Member Indicted for Fraud
Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) has been indicted by a federal grand jury on a series of charges in connection with a fraudulent charity, reports reveal.
The 69-year-old Democrat was indicted on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, filing false tax returns, and other charges, according to the AP.
Brown is currently looking to be re-elected to maintain her thirteen-year career as congresswoman for Florida’s 5th — and previously 3rd — congressional district.
The indictment comes after a federal grand jury was called to review the One Door for Education Foundation Inc., which claimed to take donations to send underprivileged students to college but instead allegedly funneled the cash into the pockets of Rep. Brown and her associates.
Fifty-year-old Elias “Ronnie” Simmons, Brown’s chief of staff since 1993, was also indicted in connection with the fraudulent charity.
The charges come on the heels of an investigation into the head of the charity, Carla Wiley, who was found to have deposited over $800,000 in funds to the charity yet only gave out a single $1,000 scholarship in over four years. Officials charged Wiley with transferring tens of thousands of dollars into her own accounts as well as the accounts of others.
In a statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Leslie Caldwell, chief of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said Brown seemed to have treated the charity as a “personal slush fund.”
“Congresswoman Brown and her chief of staff are alleged to have used the congresswoman’s official position to solicit over $800,000 in donations to a supposed charitable organization, only to use that organization as a personal slush fund,” Caldwell wrote.
“Corruption erodes the public’s trust in our entire system of representative government,” Caldwell said.
Investigators say that up to $200,000 of the charity’s cash was used to fund special events for Brown and her staff, including golf outings, luxury seating for concerts, NFL games, and other events. Further complicating matters, some of the events were also held under the auspices of the congresswoman’s congressional office.
Brown, who is listed as an “honorable member” of the Congressional Black Caucus has had other brushes with the law. Among other scrapes, in 1998, Brown was admonished by the Federal Election Commission for her campaign’s forging of the signature of a campaign treasurer on reports. The campaign treasurer quit after discovering the fraud. Brown has also been accused of paying out thousands to her daughter and supplying federal contracts to her daughter’s husband. She was also rebuked by the House in 2004 for calling the 2000 election of George W. Bush a “coup d’état” on the floor of the House.