Former US Rep. Corrine Brown was sentenced Monday to five years in federal prison for fraud and tax crimes that included raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for a mock charity.
Ronnie Simmons, Brown's long-time chief of staff, was sentenced to 48 months in prison, and the charity's founder, Carla Wiley, president of One Door for Education, was sentenced to 21 months.
District Judge Timothy Corrigan said he believed Brown used his position in Congress to achieve an "admirable record of service." However, he also said that he abused the confidence of that office to carry out a criminal conspiracy.
"This is a sad day for everyone," Corrigan told Brown shortly after announcing his sentence. "I was impressed by all the support he gave you, and I think it is a tribute to all the work he has done over the years, which is what makes this even more tragic."
In a long statement read before announcing the prayers, Corrigan said he believed that Brown and Simmons shared the same amount of guilt in the conspiracy, while Wiley had the least amount.
Still, he noted that the three reaped the benefits of the illegal plan, which he described as "especially shameless" because they took money that supposedly provided educational opportunities for the children and instead used it to finance a luxurious lifestyle.
This was a crime born of the rights and greed committed to guarantee a lifestyle that was beyond their means, "said Corrigan." Just think of the good that could have been done with that money if it had been used for its intended purpose. "
Corrigan ordered Brown to appear in prison no earlier than January 8 in an undetermined prison, but allowed him to remain free until then.
Brown's lawyer, James Smith of Orlando, had asked for parole and said that Brown would appeal the sentence.
An appeal can not prevent the 12-term congresswoman from getting behind bars, however.The federal rules say that Brown should start to meet his time. while the appeal is pending unless the judge finds that the defense raises substantial issues that are likely to result in a new trial or a shorter sentence than the time it takes It will be necessary to decide the appeal. 19659002] Prosecutors asked Corrigan for at least five years in prison during a sentencing hearing held last month.
A report prior to the judgment of the court personnel, which the judge is not obliged to follow, recommended a prison term of seven years, three months and nine years.
That term was based on the sentencing guidelines for the 18 charges for which Brown was convicted in a May trial. The jurors convicted her of charges related to mail fraud, conspiracy, concealment of income and filing of false tax returns.
Thirteen of the charges Brown was convicted of involved her fundraising efforts for One Door for Education, an organization she falsely described as a tax-exempt nonprofit support project to help children.
Wiley, who at one point dated Simmons, had started One Door as a base scholarship fund in Virginia in honor of his mother. But the fund, which the Internal Revenue Service never recognized as a charity, was essentially inactive until Simmons suggested using it as a tool to receive – and spend – the money that Brown's sponsors donated for the receptions he held during the conferences. legislative elections.
Between 2012 and the beginning of 2016, One Door received about $ 800,000 in donations, often from wealthy businessmen who later said that Brown approached them personally and told them that One Door would use the money for child causes.
Actually, the juries were contacted during Brown's trial, only a small part of the money was spent on real charity, while more than $ 330,000 went to party-type events such as outings to a Beyonce concert, a Jaguars-Redskins game in Washington and the One Door Invitational golf tournament sponsored in honor of Brown at TPC Sawgrbad.
Prosecutors reminded Corrigan last month that another $ 26,860 in cash was transferred from One Door's bank account to Brown's accounts, sometimes with banking chambers that register Simmons by collecting or depositing the money. Simmons also handed over money to Brown, according to prosecutors.
Simmons was formally indicted with Brown last year, but received an agreement and declared against his former boss, for whom he worked for a quarter of a century. Wiley pleaded guilty to electronic fraud conspiracy in March 2016, months before the others were charged.
The prosecutors' argument that the fraud had been significant was underscored by their requests from Corrigan to order that the three collectively lose more than $ 650,000 from the government labeled as proceeds of crime.
In addition, under a separate part of the law that involves paying victims for their losses, prosecutors requested that Brown and Simmons be ordered to make restitution payments totaling $ 452,000 to donors who gave One Door . They also asked for an order for Brown to pay $ 62,000 in restitution to the IRS for lying about their taxes, and an order for Simmons to pay another $ 91,000 in restitution for a fee that involves him only by creating a ghost employee on the payroll of the staff. of Brown.
If Corrigan's conviction continues, Brown's incarceration will end a tumultuous but significant career in which Brown and two others, all elected in 1992, became the first African-Americans Florida sent to Congress since the 19th century.
Both in Congress and the Florida Legislature for a decade before, Brown seemed to enjoy a role as an advocate for the poor and deprived of their rights. She also enjoyed promoting herself as a policy that brought political bacon to Jacksonville in the form of funds for major highway projects and important public buildings, including the federal court where she was sentenced.
His 24 years in Congress only ended after he was formally charged, and Brown had rebelled against the idea that the criminal case would define his legacy.
"On my gravestone it will not be said 'criminal, guilty'," Brown said during an interview with Times-Union. First news of the coast in April.