Representative Corrine Brown (D-FL) and her chief of staff, Elias Simmons, are being charged with 24 counts of fraud. The charges come in connection with a fake charity according to an indictment filed by a federal grand jury that was released Friday. The charges include mail fraud, wire fraud, and tax fraud.
According to prosecutors, Brown and her accomplices were siphoning money from One Door For Education Inc. The organization claimed that it was a charity to help lower-income students, but it was not filed as a non-profit. Brown allegedly used her position as a member of Congress to raise funds for the group.
Said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Leslie Caldwell in a statement:
‘Congresswoman Brown and her chief of staff are alleged to have used the congresswoman’s official position to solicit over $800,000 in donations to a supposed charitable organization, only to use that organization as a personal slush fund.’
The indictment alleges that Brown used more than $200,000 dollars in charity money for personal use. Brown, allegedly, used the money for such things as a golf tournament, Washington parties, and to buy box seats at a Beyonce concert and NFL game. In addition, money was spent on luxury vacations in the Bahamas and elsewhere. Brown has been a member of the House since 1993.
The charity’s president, Carla Wiley, pled guilty to fraud earlier this year. According to prosecutors, Wiley had deposited $80,000 into One Door’s accounts, but had spent a mere $2,400 on scholarships.
Noah Bookbinder, who leads the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), says his group has long had questions about the close ties between Brown and One Door:
‘The indictments of Rep. Brown and her chief of staff, if proven, are part of a disturbing trend of lawmakers using their office to benefit themselves, friends, and family. we applaud the Justice Department for continuing to build on the indictments of Sen. Menendez and Rep. Fattah to establish a pattern of more aggressively enforcing corruption laws and holding public officials accountable when they abuse their office.’
Michelle Klimt, special agent with the FBI, released a statement saying the bureau placed public corruption at the top of it’s priority list.
‘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.’
A local CBS affiliate’s Wilely’s involvement in the fraud is available below: