Ex-Florida Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown Sentenced for Fraud Involving Sham Charity

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Reuters) – Former U.S. Representative Corrine Brown of Florida was sentenced on Monday to five years in prison for her role in helping raise more than $800,000 for a bogus charity that was used as a slush fund, a Jacksonville television station reported.

Brown, a Democrat, was ordered to turn herself in to authorities no earlier than Jan. 8. She represented a Florida district that included Jacksonville during her nearly 25-year career before losing her re-election bid last year after being indicted.

Brown, 71, was convicted in May on 18 counts of participating in a conspiracy involving a fraudulent education charity, concealing material facts required on financial disclosure forms and filing false tax returns.

Jacksonville station WJXT-TV reported that Brown told U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan that she would appeal her sentence.

Florida congresswoman Corrine Brown speaks during a public rally to honor the memory of Trayvon Martin, at Fort Mellon Park in Sanford, Florida, U.S. March 22, 2012. (REUTERS/Octavian Cantilli)

Emails and phone calls to prosecutors were not immediately returned.

Prosecutors said Brown participated from 2012 to 2016 in a conspiracy and fraud scheme involving the One Door for Education fund, along with her chief-of-staff Elias “Ronnie” Simmons and the charity’s president, Carla Wiley.

Prosecutors outlined a pattern of fraud by Brown and her top aide that included using hundreds of thousands of dollars from the One Door for Education Foundation for lavish parties, trips and shopping excursions. Brown spent illicit funds on personal uses such as concerts and golf, U.S. Justice Department officials said.

Brown’s former chief of staff, Elias “Ronnie” Simmons, and One Door’s executive director Carla Wiley had accepted plea deals and testified against Brown. They were also sentenced Monday. Simmons was sentenced to four years in prison, followed by three years of probation, and Wiley received a one-year sentence following by three years of probation. They too were ordered to turn themselves in no earlier than Jan. 8.

Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) listens as Democratic presidential hopeful U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) speaks during a campaign rally at Wait Chapel on the Wake Forest University campus April 18, 2008 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Simmons was sentenced to four years and Wiley to 21 months, according to WJXT. None of the three were taken into custody after being sentenced at the Jacksonville federal courthouse. The former congresswoman will serve her sentence in federal prison.

Simmons told jurors that his boss ordered him to take cash and checks from One Door’s account on dozens of occasions and deposit the money into Brown’s personal account.

Brown testified in her own defense, saying she was left in the dark about the details of One Door’s money, and blamed the theft on Simmons.

The Virginia-based One Door only gave out one scholarship for $1,200 to an unidentified person in Florida, according to court documents.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 
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