A former Florida congresswoman was convicted Thursday on 18 federal charges, including participating in a conspiracy and soliciting more than $800,000 in donations to a fraudulent charity for children. Although former Rep. Corrine Brown pleaded not guilty last year, a federal jury in Jacksonville convicted her after discovering that Brown and her co-conspirators were stealing the contributions while their charity only granted two scholarships totaling $1,200.
“Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown violated the public trust, the honor of her position, and the integrity of the American system of government when she abused one of the most powerful positions in the nation for her own personal gain,” stated Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco. “She shamefully deprived needy children of hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have helped with their education and improved their opportunities for advancement, and she lied to the IRS and the American public about secret cash deposits into her personal bank accounts.”
Between 1993 and 2017, Brown served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. But according to evidence presented at trial, Brown began participating in a conspiracy and fraud scheme involving One Door for Education – Amy Anderson Scholarship Fund in 2012.
Along with Elias “Ronnie” Simmons, her chief of staff, and Carla Wiley, the president of the fraudulent charity, Brown and other co-conspirators solicited more than $800,000 in charitable donations while incessantly making withdrawals from the organization’s account and transferring the funds to their personal accounts. Last year, Wiley pleaded guilty to her role in the conspiracy, while Simmons eventually pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and one count of theft of government property in February.
According to the terms of Simmons’ plea bargain and the evidence presented at trial, more than $300,000 in charitable donations were used to pay for events hosted by Brown or held in her honor, including a golf tournament in Ponte Vedra Beach, lavish receptions during an annual conference in Washington, D.C., the use of a luxury box during a Beyoncé concert, and the use of a luxury box during an NFL game. Despite raising over $800,000 in contributions, One Door for Education only awarded two scholarships totaling $1,200 to financially assist students entering college.
Indicted in July along with Simmons on 24 counts, Brown was found guilty on Thursday of 18 federal charges, including participating in a conspiracy involving a fraudulent education charity, concealing material facts on required financial disclosure forms, obstructing the due administration of the internal revenue laws, and filing false tax returns. Brown was also convicted of violating the Ethics in Government Act by concealing certain income on the required annual financial disclosure forms that she submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Former Congresswoman Brown chose greed and personal gain over the sacred trust given to her by the community that she served for many years,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow. “These guilty verdicts underscore our Office’s resolve in holding public officials at all levels of government accountable for their actions. In this case, former Congresswoman Brown stole money that was donated on the false promise of helping further the educational goals of underprivileged children.”
Potentially facing decades in prison, Brown reportedly appeared in shock as she left the courtroom. Her sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.