This Florida congresswoman and superdelegate faces over 300 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines if she’s convicted of fraud charges.”My heart is just really heavy,” Rep. Corrine Brown said.The Democratic congresswoman pleaded not guilty to 22 counts in Jacksonville federal court on Friday.According to the indictment, Brown and her chief of staff are accused of using Brown’s position to bring $800,000 in donations to a fraudulent education charity. Prosecutors said the organization gave out two scholarships totaling $1,200. The rest, they said, was used as “a personal slush fund.”
They say the money was used for vacations, events in Brown’s honor and luxury boxes at a Beyoncé concert and an NFL game.
The head of the supposed charity pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. According to First Coast News, she testified against a public official believed to be Brown.
“I’m looking forward to a speedy day in court to vindicate myself,” Brown said outside the Jacksonville courthouse.
Brown will step down from her position as ranking member on the House Veterans Affairs Committee for the duration of the case.
Her district includes Jacksonville and parts of the Orlando area. She’s currently running for her 13th term in Congress.
If convicted, Brown, 69, could face up to 357 years in prison and $4.8 million in fines, while Simmons could get up to 355 years and a $4.7 million fine. Both pleaded not guilty to each charge outlined in the indictment.
The 12-term congresswoman is a staple in Florida politics, and a political powerhouse in Jacksonville, a city largely led by Republicans. She wore a long white dress to the arraignment, leaned back in her chair as the numerous charges against her were read aloud by the lead prosecutor.
“That’s a lot to digest,” said Judge James R. Klindt.
And what she did was really heinous:
The charges are linked to the One Door Education Foundation, a Virginia-based group founded in 2011 that purported to solicit donations to help with things like scholarships. Prosecutors say the group was a scam and that most of the $800,000 in donations went to benefit either Brown, Simmons or the group’s president Carla Wiley, who has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and has been cooperating with the feds.
Part of the conspiracy, according to the 53-page indictment, involved Brown using her position and influence as a member of Congress to get donors to give money to the group.
“Brown, Simmons, and Wiley used Brown’s official positions as a member of Congress to solicit contributions to One Door for Education and to induce individuals and entities to make donations … based on false and fraudulent representation that the funds would be used for charitable purposes,” read the indictment.
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