Former Democrat Rep. Corrine Brown has been found guilty of siphoning hundreds of thousands of dollars from a charity that she and her chief of staff had passed off as a scholarship service for students.
The disgraced Florida Democrat, a permanent fixture in Congress for the past 25 years, is now facing years behind bars. She pleaded innocent to 22 counts ranging from conspiracy to tax fraud, but the jury found her guilty of 18.
Of the more than $800,000 she and Elias “Ronnie” Simmons raised for One Door for Education, member station WJCT reports that just $1,200, or 0.15%, actually went where they told donors it would: students’ education.
According to prosecutors, the charity headed by the Democrat Congresswoman distributed just two scholarships in over five years.
“She knew exactly how to lie to these donors, and knew exactly where the cash money was going,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney A. Tysen Duva in his opening statement.
Prosecutors alleged — and on Thursday the jury agreed — that Brown and Simmons stole the money, using it for lavish events such as a golf tournament, luxury boxes for an NFL game and VIP tickets for a Beyonce concert.
WJCT has more from the courtroom:
“Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tysen Duva and Eric Olshan painted Brown as an egotistical politician who lived beyond her means. Using bank records, checks, letters, emails and hundreds of other documents, prosecutors made the case Brown directed the deposit of $37,000 of One Door cash into her account. They also claimed she was instrumental in planning nine events that cost the sham charity $330,000.“
Former Congresswoman Brown, for her part, tried to pass the buck, arguing that the fraud was entirely the doing of her staffer Simmons, who earlier pleaded guilty and testified against her.
NPR reports: She didn’t speak after the verdict was rendered, though her attorney James Smith told reporters, “I still have a lot of work to do on this case,” referring to the sentencing phase of the trial that’s still to come and the motion he plans to file for a new trial.
Former Congresswoman Brown is now facing more than 300 years in prison, with the sentencing phase of the trial to be completed within 90 days.