Earlier this week, a former Democratic lawmaker in Florida was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to prison. She apparently had been using a charity for poor students as her own personal slush fund for several years.
Specifically, US District Court Judge Timothy Corrigan recently sentenced former United States Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL), who’s spent over twenty years in office, to five years behind bars and three years of probation for “lying on her tax returns and on her congressional financial disclosures,” fraud, and several other related charges.
This occurred after it was revealed that she had stolen over $800,000 in charitable donations between 2012 and 2016. According to reports, Rep. Brown took money from the One Door for Education Foundation, which is “a Virginia-based group founded in 2011 that purported to solicit donations to help with things like scholarships.”
Leading up Brown’s conviction, prosecutors detailed an extensive “pattern of fraud” by her that included spending hundreds of thousands of the charities dollars on “lavish parties, trips, and shopping excursions.” Shockingly, out of the nearly million dollars that the charity raised, only one $1,200 was reportedly given out.
While speaking out against Brown during the sentencing hearing, one prosecutor, assistant U.S. Attorney Tysen Duva, also made sure to underscore the fact that Brown’s time served and her “accomplishments” as a lawmaker don’t excuse her reprehensible conduct. “She was a historic figure. She was a trailblazer,” he explained before arguing that while “she has positive things to point to…it can’t…overshadow the offense.” To clarify, he pointed out that “she ran for office to be a leader of American democracy while she stole money in a multitude of ways.”
Fortunately, Judge Corrigan, who called Brown’s actions “especially shameless,” appears to understand this. In fact, he pointed out that her past accomplishments actually make the situation much worse. “It is a sad day for everyone. It is a sad day for this community. I was impressed with all the outpouring of support for you and it’s a tribute to you and the work you’ve done…and that makes it more tragic and sad,” reasoned Corrigan upon sentencing Brown.
“This was a crime born out of entitlement and greed committed to ensure a lifestyle that was beyond their means,” he continued, noting, “just think of the good that could have been done with that money if it would have been used for its intended purpose.”
In addition to Brown, Elias “Ronnie” Simmons, her former Chief of Staff, and Carla Wiley, the Executive Director of the One Door for Education Foundation, were also sentenced to prison. Their punishment, however, was less severe than Brown’s because they accepted plea deals and ended up testifying against her. Simmons ultimately received four years in prison and Wiley received one. Like Brown, both were also sentenced to three years of probation following their imprisonment.
Unsurprisingly, many were very pleased that Brown and her associates were held accountable for their actions, including Charles P. Spencer, the FBI Special Agent in Charge. Following the trio’s sentencing, he released a statement celebrating the outcome and praising those involved. “I am proud of the exceptional work of the special agents, analysts, and support personnel who spent countless hours following the money trail in this case,” he began.
“Their work is some of the most complex, tedious, and significant work we do for the American public. It is an exceptionally difficult task, but rooting out public corruption is a priority for which the FBI will continue to dedicate the resources necessary to investigate because the impact on everyday people is real.” continued Spencer.
“We thank our law enforcement partners at the IRS-CI and U.S. Attorney’s Office for their efforts to hold Brown and her associates accountable for their inexcusable actions,” he added, noting, “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.
Corruption of any kind must not be tolerated. If others are currently engaged in similar behavior to Brown, they too need to be identified and thrown in jail. Because of this, the FBI and Department of Justice must continue actively paying close attention to our country’s elected officials.