Corrine Brown, a former Florida congresswoman from Jacksonville, was sentenced to five years in prison for fraud and other charges related to a fake charity she used to put money in her own pocket while serving in Washington.
A federal judge sentenced Brown, 71, to five years in prison and she was ordered to turn herself in to federal authorities no later than Jan. 8.
First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1993, Brown, a Democrat, served the Jacksonville area until 2017.
Brown was indicted on federal corruption charges in 2016 for stealing money from a fake charity organization, One Door For Education, which was created to give scholarships to poor children but instead was used as Brown and her friends’ personal slush fund.
Brown’s chief of staff Ronnie Simmons was also involved in the case and pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy and corruption felonies: conspiracy to commit fraud and theft of government funds.
Simmons testified against Brown as part of the plea deal. Brown, on the other hand, said she had no idea what was going on with the fake charity’s money and instead shifted the blame on to Simmons.
One Door president Carla Wiley also pleaded guilty to charges. Federal prosecutors said there weren’t many scholarships doled out by the organization — instead, they said Wiley transferred thousands of dollars to herself for her own personal use.
Prosecutors said only one scholarship — for $1,200 — was given out from 2012 to 2016, with the other $800,000 going to Brown, Wiley and Simmons.
Wiley pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Brown maintained throughout the legal proceedings her innocence, but the backlash over her indictment had catastrophic effects on her career. She ran for reelection last November but lost to Al Lawson, who now sits in her seat in Washington, D.C.
“This is a sad day for everyone,” U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan told Brown after sentencing, according to the Florida Times-Union. “I was impressed with all the outpouring of support for you, and I think it’s a tribute to all the work you’ve done over the years. That’s what makes this all the more tragic.”
According to the Times Union, Corrigan said both Brown and Simmons were responsible for an equal of the blame in the case. Wiley, Corrigan said, shared the least amount.
“This was a crime born out of entitlement and greed committed to ensure a lifestyle that was beyond their means,” Corrigan said. “Just think of the good that could have been done with that money if it would have been used for its intended purpose.”
The prison Brown is scheduled to report to is currently unidentified, but Brown will be walking free until Jan. 8. Her attorney, James Smith, said he intends to appeal the sentence and instead wanted the judge to offer her probation.
This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.