Feds Say Lawmaker Saw Charity as Slush Fund

     (CN) — Prosecutors claim U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida and her chief of staff accepted more than $800,000 in charitable donations but only used $1,200 for the charity’s purpose of paying scholarships.
     Brown, a 69-year-old Democrat, was indicted Friday on fraud charges, along with her chief of staff, Elias “Ronnie” Simmons.
     According to the 53-page indictment, Brown and Simmons, 50, solicited more than $800,000 in donations for a college scholarship charity called One Door for Education but used the vast majority of the money for themselves.
     Only $1,200 was given out by One Door as scholarship money, prosecutors allege.
     Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said in a statement that Brown and Simmons are accused of using One Door “as a personal slush fund” between 2012 and this year.
     Brown allegedly spent more than $200,000 on events such as a golf tournament, lavish receptions, and luxury boxes at a Beyonce concert and a Washington Redskins football game.
     The congresswoman and Simmons also spent One Door money on airline tickets and vehicle repairs, the indictment states.
     Simmons allegedly withdrew tens of thousands of dollars in cash from a One Door bank account and deposited the money into Brown’s personal account. He is also accused of misusing his position to get a family member a congressional job.
     One Door was not properly registered as a charitable organization with the IRS, the indictment states.
     The 24-count indictment charges Brown and Simmons with mail and wire fraud, concealing facts on required financial disclosure forms, theft of government property, obstruction and filing false tax returns.
     Carla Wiley, president of One Door, pleaded guilty for her involvement on March 3.
     Brown has been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1992. Her district includes Jacksonville, Gainesville and Orlando.
     She pleaded not guilty Friday afternoon, according to a WJXT report.
     The congresswoman faces up to 357 years in prison if convicted on all charges. Simmons could face up to 355 years.

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