Former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown And Conspirators Sentenced To Federal Prison
Jacksonville, FL – United States District Judge Timothy J. Corrigan today sentenced former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown (71, Jacksonville) to 5 years in federal prison for her role in a conspiracy and fraud scheme involving a fraudulent scholarship charity. She also was ordered to serve 3 years of supervised release and to pay $515,166.86 in restitution to her victims, including $62,650.99 in tax restitution.
Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Charles P. Spencer of the FBI’s Jacksonville, Florida, Division, and Chief Don Fort of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) made the announcement.
On May 11, 2017, Brown was convicted by a federal jury on 18 counts of an indictment charging her with participating in a conspiracy involving a fraudulent education charity, concealing material facts in required financial disclosure forms, obstructing the due administration of internal revenue laws, and filing false tax returns. The jury also found her guilty of violating the Ethics in Government Act by concealing certain income in required annual financial disclosure forms she had submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Brown’s co-conspirators, Elias “Ronnie” Simmons (51, Laurel, Maryland), Brown’s long-time Chief of Staff, and Carla Wiley (55, Leesburg, Virginia), the president of the fraudulent charity, previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the education charity scheme and were also sentenced today. Simmons was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison and 3 years of supervised release. Wiley was sentenced to 21 months' imprisonment. Simmons and Wiley were ordered to pay $544,137.25 and $452,515.87 in restitution, respectively.
Evidence at trial showed that between late 2012 and early 2016, Brown participated in a conspiracy and fraud scheme involving One Door for Education – Amy Anderson Scholarship Fund (One Door) in which the Brown, Simmons, Wiley, and others acting on their behalf solicited more than $800,000 in charitable donations based on false representations that the donations would be used for college scholarships and school computer drives, among other charitable causes. Testimony by One Door donors showed that Brown and her coconspirators had solicited donations from individuals and corporate entities that Brown knew by virtue of her position in the U.S. House of Representatives. Many of the donors were led to believe that One Door was a properly registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization when, in fact, it was not.
Contrary to Brown’s representations, Brown, Simmons, Wiley, and others used the vast majority of One Door donations for their personal and professional benefit, including tens of thousands of dollars in cash deposits that Simmons made to Brown’s personal bank accounts, according to trial evidence. Likewise, trial evidence showed that Brown and Simmons had used the outside consulting company of one of Brown’s employees to funnel One Door funds to Brown and others for their personal use.
Trial evidence also showed that more than $300,000 in One Door funds had been used to pay for events hosted by Brown or held in her honor, including a golf tournament in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida; lavish receptions during an annual conference in Washington, D.C.; the use of a luxury box during a concert in Washington, D.C.; and the use of a luxury box during an NFL game in the Washington, D.C. area. According to trial evidence, despite raising over $800,000 in donations, One Door granted only two scholarships totaling $1,200 to cover expenses related to attending a college or university.
Additionally, trial evidence demonstrated that Brown had failed to disclose, among other things, the reportable income she had received from One Door and had claimed deductions on her tax returns based on false statements that she had made certain donations to One Door, as well as to local churches and non-profit organizations in the Jacksonville area.
The FBI and IRS-CI investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys A. Tysen Duva and Michael J. Coolican of the Middle District of Florida and former Deputy Chief Eric G. Olshan of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section prosecuted the case.