Former Florida Congresswoman Corrine Brown is facing dire consequences for her role in a reported scam that prosecutors say cheated thousands of people out of money they thought they'd donated to charity.
The 71-year-old representative plead not guilty to 18 counts of criminal charges, including mail fraud, wire fraud and falsifying tax returns, in connection with an operation prosecutors say resulted in Brown using over $300,000 of more than $833,000 in charity funds collected through the One Door For Education organization for personal expenses. According to Politico, investigators found that the money was funneled to Brown's personal bank account and also used to fund lavish extra curricular activities that included the purchase of NFL tickets and concert tickets.
The One Door For Education charity fund was established by the organization's president Carla Wiley and ran by Brown, along with her chief of staff Elias Simmons, all of whom told donors that their money would be used to help students and schools cover college-related expenses. Simmons received 4 years for his involvement with the operation, while Wiley received 21 months.
"Ms. Brown leveraged the authority of her office and the relationships she had cultivated to illegal purpose,” Judge Timothy Corrigan said. “She cast aside the very laws that she helped to enact. The rules, she decided, did not apply."
Brown's career in politics spanned over 20 years. In addition to being among the first Black Florida-based politicians elected to serve in Washington, she also became known for her work as a civil rights advocate and champion for causes supporting individuals and families in need.
Brown's lawyer, James' Smith, called her sentence "substantively unreasonable" and says he plans to appeal both the verdict and the sentencing. She has been ordered to surrender to local authorities in January 2018.