Thursday, July 07, 2016


U.S. REPRESENTATIVE CORINNE BROWN (D-JACKSONVILLE)( has reportedly been INDICTED by a federal grand jury.

Brown indicted on corruption charges, officials say
Orlando Sentinel

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown has been indicted on public corruption charges and is expected to arraigned in federal court in Jacksonville on Friday, two U.S. law enforcement officials said Thursday.

The charges are related to the Jacksonville Democratic lawmaker's involvement with an unregistered charity in Virginia.

The officials, citing grand jury secrecy rules because the indictment remains sealed, declined to provide the exact nature of the charges. They declined to be identified because they are not authorized to discuss pending cases.

In March, the U.S. House Committee on Ethics said it had opened an investigation of Brown, just weeks after the director of a charity with ties to her pleaded guilty to fraud and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

However, the committee deferred its probe at the request of the Department of Justice, which was still investigating the charity, called One Door for Education Inc. Tom Rust, chief counsel for the House Committee on Ethics, said Thursday the committee had no comment.

The House Ethics Committee is investigating U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown. (Video from Fox 35 Orlando)
During a news conference days after the ethics probe was announced, Brown proclaimed she was "clean" of wrongdoing but would not discuss the case's specifics. Her office did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Prosecutors say One Door's director, Carla Wiley, presented her organization as an education charity starting in 2011 but never obtained tax-exempt status or filed state or federal tax returns, even as it solicited about $800,000 in donations.

Between 2012 and 2016, as Wiley withdrew or transferred to her own accounts more than $140,000, the group issued just one scholarship for about $1,000, authorities said.

While documents in Wiley's case didn't mention Brown by name, prosecutors alleged that $150,000 in charity funds had been used for events hosted by or in the honor of an unnamed public official, dubbed "Person A."

Several details in Wiley's plea suggested Person A is Brown.

For example, prosecutors said Person A hosted a July 2013 golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass to benefit One Door. Records show Brown hosted a tournament for the group's benefit that month at the same Jacksonville-area golf course.

Brown's district stretches from Jacksonville south to Orlando, but a court-ordered redistricting plan has turned it into an east-west district from Jacksonville to Tallahassee for the election this year.

Brown initially challenged the new district in court but recently dropped that case, and she is running for re-election in the reconfigured district.

She faces LaShonda "L.J." Holloway and Al Lawson in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary, with the winner taking on Republican Glo Smith in November.

Staff writer Gray Rohrer contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2016, Orlando Sentinel

Corrine Brown indicted on federal charges, pleads not guilty
Posted: July 8, 2016 - 11:39pm | Updated: July 9, 2016 - 6:58am


After decades of fighting off scandal, Jacksonville’s longtime congresswoman, Corrine Brown, was indicted this week and pleaded not guilty Friday to fraud charges.

The charges come after a lengthy investigation of a scholarship fund that prosecutors say was bogus and made vast sums available for personal use. Her chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, also was indicted.

On Wednesday, prosecutors filed a sealed indictment. On Friday, the seal was lifted, and the details made public.

The charges range from mail, wire and tax fraud to lying on financial disclosures, and they’re mostly connected to a bogus charity called One Door for Education.

Outside the courthouse Friday, supporters held signs. “Black legislators matter,” one read. “Justice or Else | Corrine Matters” another read.

Inside the courthouse, political, religious and other community leaders crammed a courtroom and its hallway, listening to the charges — 22 for Brown, 18 for Simmons — and the not-guilty pleas.

Brown, a Democrat elected to Congress in 1992, could go to federal prison for 357 years, face a fine of more than $4 million, and then have three years of supervised release.

Simmons, 50, faces a maximum of 355 years in prison, a fine of more than $4 million, three years of supervised release. They both also would have to make restitution: more than a million dollars each.

Bail for both was set at $50,000, which they must pay only if they violate terms of their release. The trial was set for Sept. 6, a week after her re-election primary.

After her arraignment, Brown didn’t answer questions, but said she looked forward to going to trial and proving her innocence. “I will let the work I’ve done speak for me,” Brown said. “My heart has been really heavy, this has been a really difficult time for me.”

But Brown said she was looking forward to a “speedy” day in court to vindicate herself.

Federal prosecutors say despite being able to track hundreds of thousands of dollars going into the One Door for Education scholarship fund, they could only find $1,200 awarded in scholarships.

In the indictment, prosecutors lay out a case that Brown funneled money through One Door and used it to pay for personal things like vacations and luxury box seats to a Beyoncé and a Jacksonville Jaguars game.

“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,” Assistant Attorney General Caldwell said in a news release. “Corruption erodes the public’s trust in our entire system of representative government.”

The report says Brown lied on her tax returns and lied on her financial disclosures. It also says Simmons hired a relative who didn’t work but was paid $735,000 over 15 years, and Simmons took for himself at least $80,000 of that.

Brown, along with two others elected the same year, was the first elected black representative from Florida since Reconstruction, a result of her new black-majority district that twisted down to Orlando.

She is Jacksonville’s most recognized voice in Washington, D.C., and many in Jacksonville owe their political careers, at least in part, to Brown.

Due to her longevity in the U.S. House, she has served as the ranking member of the Veterans Affairs’ Committee until this indictment. House rules state representatives under indictment must temporarily relinquish ranking positions on committees.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Brown a “champion for America’s veterans,” and called the indictment “deeply saddening.”

Neil Henrichsen, chairman of the Duval County Democratic Party, said, “Many people appreciate her public service, and we’re disappointed about the indictment.”

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a Republican, pointed out that “our justice system states that all people are assumed innocent until proven guilty.”

But, special agent Michelle Klimt, who is in charge of the FBI Jacksonville Division, said, “It is incredibly disappointing that an elected official, who took an oath year after year to serve others, would exploit the needs of children and abuse the charitable hearts of constituents to advance her own personal and political agendas and deliver them with virtually nothing.”

Brown said she looks forward to having her attorneys present “the other side” of the story. “This,” she said, “is just the beginning.”

Andrew Pantazi: (904) 359-4310

Staff writers Nate Monroe, Steve Patterson and Chris Hong, Mark Woods and Tia Mitchell contributed to this report.

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