A judge sentenced former Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) Monday to five years in prison for fraud and tax crimes, including funneling money she raised for a fake children’s charity into her personal bank accounts, according to the Florida Times-Union.
According to WJXT-TV, a jury convicted Brown in May of raising funds for One Door for Education — a sham charity that told supporters it would provide educational opportunities for children in need — and using those funds for personal expenses like travel and tickets to a Beyoncé concert and football games.
WJXT reported that of the $833,000 the unregistered charity raised in four years, only $1,200 went toward scholarships for children.
In addition to Brown, the judge sentenced Ronnie Simmons, her longtime chief of staff, to 48 months in prison, and the charity’s founder, Carla Wiley, to 21 months. Brown, 71, will also serve three years of supervised release, and will be required to pay $250 a month in restitution once she is released.
The Times-Union reported that U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan on Monday said Brown, who was elected to Congress 12 times, abused the power of her office to carry out a criminal conspiracy.
“This is a sad day for everyone,” Corrigan told Brown. “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.”
The judge called the crime “especially shameless” since Brown and her associates took money that was purportedly going to provide educational opportunities for needy children and used it to fund a lavish lifestyle.
“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.”
FBI Jacksonville Special Agent in Charge Charles P. Spencer said in a statement to the Times-Union that “it is incredibly disappointing that an elected official, who took an oath year after year to serve others, would exploit the needs of children and abuse the charitable hearts of constituents to advance her own personal and political agendas, and deliver them with virtually nothing.”
“I am proud of the exceptional work of the special agents, analysts and support personnel who spent countless hours following the money trail in this case,” Spencer continued. “Their work is some of the most complex, tedious, and significant work we do for the American public. It is an exceptionally difficult task, but rooting out public corruption is a priority for which the FBI will continue to dedicate the resources necessary to investigate, because the impact on everyday people is real.”
Brown's attorney, James Smith, told the Times-Union his client would appeal the sentence.
"She hasn't given up hope. She intends to continue to fight," Smith said. "This court does not have the last word considering the congresswoman's fate."
The former lawmaker will be informed as to when she must report for her sentence, but that will take place after Jan. 8, according to the Times-Union.
Brown once suggested that the charges against her were racially motivated.