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Ex-Fla. Congresswoman Convicted of Running Sham Charity

Former Rep. Corrine Brown was found guilty in Jacksonville federal court of fraudulently taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from a sham charity.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (CN) -- Former Rep. Corrine Brown was found guilty in Jacksonville federal court of fraudulently taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from a sham charity.

Prosecutors accused Brown of siphoning off the funds and spending them on lavish trips, elaborate parties and shopping excursions. She was convicted of 18 fraud and tax evasion charges. She was found not guilty on four counts.

Brown, 70, served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 until 2017. She was defeated in her 2016 primary race.

The indictment came after an investigation into the charity One Door for Education Foundation Inc., which federal prosecutors said was purported to give scholarships to poor students but instead filled the coffers of Brown and her associates.

But evidence presented at trial showed that despite raising over $800,000, One Door awarded only two scholarships totaling $1,200. Meanwhile, more than $300,000 was spent by Brown on items like a luxury box during an NFL game in Washington DC, a golf tournament in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and a luxury box during a concert.

Earlier this year, One Door President Carla Wiley pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud after it as determined that she had deposited $800,000 into the foundation's account over four years.

Brown's former chief of staff, Elias Simmons, also pleaded guilty to related charges, and both he and Wiley testified against Brown.

During her trial, Brown said she was in the dark about the day-to-day goings-on with One Door's money, and blamed the theft on Simmons.

In a statement released after the verdict was announced, Acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow said "Former Congresswoman Brown chose greed and personal gain over the sacred trust given to her by the community that she served for many years. 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.”

But James Smith, Brown's attorney remained unbowed.

“Corrine Brown is not going to be defined by what happened in this courtroom,” he said outside the courthouse.

Smith said that he will soon file a motion for a new trial and that Brown continues to insist on her innocence.

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