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Ex-congresswoman may spend rest of life in prison for fraud

Photo: Congressional Pictorial Directory
Photo: Congressional Pictorial Directory(WCTV)
Published: Apr. 24, 2017 at 8:07 AM EDT
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By: Associated Press

May 12, 2017

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown could spend the rest of her life in prison after being found guilty of taking money from a charity that was purported to be giving scholarships to poor students.

The Thursday verdict came after prosecutors outlined a pattern of fraud by the 70-year-old Brown and her top aide that included using hundreds of thousands of dollars from the One Door for Education Foundation for lavish parties, trips and shopping excursions.

She was convicted of 18 of the 22 charges against her, including lying on her taxes and on her congressional financial disclosure forms.

It was the final act in the downfall of Brown, who had represented the Florida district that included Jacksonville since 1993. Brown, a Democrat, was one of the first three African Americans to be elected to Congress from Florida since Reconstruction.


By: Associated Press

May 11, 2017

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown has been found guilty of taking money from a charity that was purported to be giving scholarships to poor students.

The jury's verdict on Thursday came after prosecutors accused the 70-year-old Brown of using hundreds of thousands of dollars from the One Door for Education Foundation for lavish parties, trips and shopping excursions.

She was found guilty on 18 of the 22 counts against her, including lying on tax and financial disclosure forms.

Brown, a Democrat who represented the Florida district that included Jacksonville since 1993, had pleaded not guilty to all charges including fraud.

Brown's former chief of staff, Elias "Ronnie" Simmons, and One Door's president pleaded guilty after their federal indictments for misusing the charity's funds, and testified against Brown.

Simmons said Brown ordered him to take cash and checks from One Door's account that was put into the congresswoman's personal accounts.


By: Associated Press

May 4, 2017

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Ex-U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown is scheduled to testify in her own defense on charges that she used a charity meant to give scholarships to poor students as a personal slush fund.

Brown's testimony was scheduled Thursday afternoon, just a few hours after federal prosecutors rested their case.

Prosecutors say Brown ordered her former chief of staff, Elias "Ronnie" Simmons, to divert money from the One Door for Education Foundation and to deposit it into her personal bank account.

She is accused of using the funds to support a lavish lifestyle including parties in her honor and attending an NFL game in a luxury box and a Beyonce concert.

Brown's attorney has said Simmons was the mastermind of the scheme, and took One Door money without the former congresswoman's knowledge.


By: Associated Press

May 3, 2017 -

Updated -- 11:30 a.m.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Former U.S. Rep Corrine Brown's ex-chief of staff says he gave her a steady stream of blank checks and cash from the account of a purported scholarship fund for poor kids that federal prosecutors say she used to fund a lavish lifestyle, including parties in her own honor and shopping trips.

Elias "Ronnie" Simmons testified Wednesday in Brown's federal fraud trial in Jacksonville. Simmons has pleaded guilty to two related counts in a plea deal with the government.

Simmons said the charity One Door for Education started off as a way to raise money to fund a reception held during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation meetings in Washington DC.

Soon, however, federal prosecutors say it became a personal slush fund for the congresswoman, Simmons and the foundation's president, Carla Wiley. Wiley has also pleaded guilty.

Simmons testified that they used One Door for fundraising because, as a registered 501(c)3 organization, there were no limits on the amount it could raise, unlike political action committees or campaign fundraising accounts.

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Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown's ex-chief of staff is scheduled to testify at her fraud trial about what federal prosecutors say was a wide-ranging scheme to use hundreds of thousands in donations to a purported charity for lavish parties, trips and other personal uses.

Elias "Ronnie" Simmons is scheduled to take the stand Wednesday in federal court in Jacksonville, Florida. Simmons has pleaded guilty to related charges.

The 70-year-old Brown has pleaded not guilty, and her attorney has argued Simmons was the mastermind and took advantage of the aging lawmaker.

Federal investigators say Brown's One Door for Education Foundation, billed as a way to give scholarships to poor students, raised more than $800,000, but only gave out one $1,200 scholarship.

Prosecutors say the money was instead used for Brown and her associates' lavish lifestyles.


By: Associated Press

May 1, 2017

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- The head of a charity that federal prosecutors say former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown used as a slush fund says she gave the congresswoman's chief of staff unfettered access to the organization's bank accounts.

Carla Wiley has pleaded guilty to fraud for using the charity's money for personal expenses. She testified Monday at Brown's federal fraud trial in Jacksonville. Brown has pleaded not guilty.

Wiley testified that the charity had problems fundraising until she started dating Brown's chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, and gave him the organization's debit card and checkbook.

Federal prosecutors say the charity, 'One Door,' raised more than $800,000, much of which was used by Brown for lavish trips and events. Meanwhile, One Door gave out only $1,200 in scholarships.


By: Associated Press

April 27, 2017

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Testimony is to continue in the fraud trial of Corrine Brown after prosecutors told jurors the former congresswoman from Florida financed a lavish lifestyle of Beverly Hills shopping trips and fancy parties on donations to a charity ostensibly set up to help poor kids with scholarships.

Brown has pleaded not guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges. Her attorney James Smith says she was duped by her former chief of staff, Elias "Ronnie" Simmons.

But federal prosecutors say her Virginia-based One Door for Education Foundation raised $800,000 in donations, but only awarded one scholarship for $1,200.

According to the indictment, Brown and others spent the money on personal items including the use of luxury boxes for a Beyonce concert.


By: Associated Press

April 26, 2017

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown's federal fraud and corruption trial is scheduled to begin in Jacksonville.

Prosecutors say the 70-year-old Brown and members of her staff used a charity meant to give scholarships to poor students as a personal slush fund. She was indicted last year, and later lost her re-election bid.

Brown has pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying she is being persecuted. Opening arguments were scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Federal investigators say her One Door for Education Foundation raised $800,000 in donations, but only awarded one scholarship for $1,200.

According to the indictment, Brown and others spent the money on personal items including the use of luxury boxes for a Beyonce concert and an NFL game.


By: Associated Press

April 24, 2017

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Jury selection is starting in the trial of a former Florida congresswoman facing fraud charges.

The jury selection process is expected to last two days, starting Monday, in the trial of former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown.

The Florida Times-Union reports that prosecutors and defense attorneys hope to seat 12 jurors by Wednesday when opening arguments are set to begin in federal court in Jacksonville.

Brown's indictment states that she and others raised $800,000 through the charity One Door for Education. The indictment said the organization only gave out two scholarships for $1,200, and that the money was instead used for the congresswoman's personal expenses.

Brown's former chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, and former One Door president Carla Wiley already have pleaded guilty.

Brown has pleaded not guilty.