JACKSONVILLE, Fla., July 8 (UPI) — U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown was indicted Friday on charges she used some $800,000 in charitable donations as a “personal slush fund” for items that included box seats to a Beyonce concert and an NFL game, the Justice Department said.
Brown, a Democrat representing Jacksonville, Fla., and her chief of staff, Elias “Ronnie” Simmons, 50, were charged in a 24-count indictment. Court documents show they allegedly spent money earmarked for the One Door for Education charity for personal travel, luxury hotels, Beyonce concert tickets, box seats at a NFL game and a personal IRS debt, among other expenses.
Charges include federal mail and wire fraud, concealing material facts on required financial disclosure forms, theft of government property, obstruction of the due administration of the internal revenue laws and filing false tax returns.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell, of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said Brown and Simmons used Brown’s official position as a member of Congress to solicit “over $800,000 in donations to a supposed charitable organization, only to use that organization as a personal slush fund.”
“Our office is committed to ferreting out and prosecuting all forms of corruption and fraud, regardless of who the offender is,” U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III said. “In our nation, no one is above the law.”
Investigators allege that between 2012 and early 2016, Brown and Simmons used money earmarked for the unregistered charity. The indictment alleges only two scholarships totaling $1,200 were awarded to students to cover college expenses.
In March, Carla Wiley, president of One Door for Education, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She entered a plea agreement after she was found to have opened the group’s bank accounts and “falsely led donors to believe that money raised in connection with these social events would be used to support the charitable mission of One Door For Education and other charities.”
Investigators found “Wiley transferred tens of thousands of dollars from the One Door For Education bank account to her personal bank accounts.”