Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) plead not guilty to all 22 federal counts out of a 24 count indictment on Friday in a Jacksonville federal court, with charges ranging from mail and wire fraud to falsifying required financial documents and tax obstruction.
The accusations primarily focus on Brown’s involvement in a fraudulent Virginia-based charitable organization called the One Door for Education Foundation, forced to close in March by an order of the Justice Department.
According to court filings, Ms. Brown is accused of using the power of her office to solicit donations through her congressional campaign to the organization, a part of which was subsequently transferred to a personal bank account. Only $1,200 of the $800,000 deposited into the Foundation’s account over the last four years was used for the issuance of two scholarships.
A majority of the charity’s funds were used for personal items such as car maintenance costs, plane tickets and vacations, as well as business entertainment expenses like social events hosted by the congresswoman in Washington and a golf outing that Brown organized in Ponte Vedra Beach at TPC Sawgrass.
If convicted on all 22 counts, Ms. Brown faces up to 357 years in prison and nearly $5 million in fines.
The Assistant Attorney General’s statement accused Brown and her office’s chief of staff, who was also indicted, of using the unregistered charity “as a personal slush fund.”
Brown was also charged in a separate case with federal tax obstruction and fraud, practices the Florida Democratic allegedly engaged in over a seven-year period beginning in 2007.
With a trial date set for September 6, Brown’s re-election campaign has another obstacle to navigate now that her district’s geographic boundaries have been significantly altered. A state court judge ruled in 2014 that Florida’s congressional lines were illegally drawn following the 2010 census.
First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992, Brown’s Fifth District currently snakes from Jacksonville south to Orlando. With new court-ordered requirements however, the boundary will run due west from Jacksonville to the state capital of Tallahassee.
Ms. Brown and her attorney met with the media after leaving the Jacksonville courtroom Friday afternoon.
[First Coast News] [WJXT News4JAX] [Photo courtesy jacksonville.com]