Ex-U.S. representative found guilty in fraud scheme

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Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown

Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown

Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown has been convicted for her role in a conspiracy and fraud scheme involving a fraudulent scholarship charity, federal prosecutors said. Before redistricting earlier this decade, Brown’s serpentine district included parts of West Volusia.

A federal jury of seven men and five women in Jacksonville May 11 found Brown, 70, guilty of 18 counts of an indictment charging her with participating in a conspiracy involving a fraudulent education charity, concealing material facts on required financial-disclosure forms, obstructing the due administration of the internal-revenue laws, and filing false tax returns.

The jury also found Brown guilty of violating the Ethics in Government Act by concealing certain income on the required annual financial-disclosure forms she submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives, authorities said.

Judge Timothy J. Corrigan said he would schedule Brown’s sentencing for a later date.

Brown’s co-conspirators, Elias “Ronnie” Simmons, Brown’s longtime chief of staff, and Carla Wiley, the president of the fraudulent charity, pleaded guilty to their roles in the education charity scheme on Feb. 8, 2017, and March 3, 2016, 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, according to a news release. Brown, Simmons, Wiley and others 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.

Many of the donors were led to believe that One Door was a properly registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, when, in fact, it was not.

Testimony revealed that despite raising more than $800,000 in donations, One Door granted only two scholarships totaling $1,200 that were awarded to students to cover expenses related to attending a college or university.

More than $300,000 in One Door funds were used to pay for events hosted by Brown or held in her honor, including a golf tournament in Ponte Vedra Beach; 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.

Additionally, evidence showed that Brown failed to disclose the reportable income she received from One Door and falsely claimed deductions on her tax returns for certain donations to One Door, as well as to local churches and nonprofit organizations in the Jacksonville area.

— Joe Crews, joe@beacononlinenews.com

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