A Democratic Tennessee state lawmaker has been charged with embezzlement and wire fraud for allegedly using $600,000 in federal taxpayer dollars to fund personal expenses including her wedding, honeymoon, and subsequent divorce.
What are the details?
According to a criminal complaint from the FBI, Sen. Katrina Robinson pulled funds from the $2.2 million in grant money one of her businesses received from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over a period of four years from July of 2015 to June of 2019.
The complaint includes a spreadsheet of transactions Robinson allegedly made using the federal funds, including more than $169,000 in salary bonuses to herself "beyond what was approved," $54,000 to her personal retirement account, home improvements including a $5,500 wrought iron door, and "expenses related to Robinson's wedding and honeymoon, and later, legal fees for her divorce."
Robinson is also accused of using the money for her state Senate campaign, to pay off personal debts, to buy her daughter a car, and to make several thousand dollars of purchases to support her children's snow cone business.
The New York Times reported that "in addition to serving as a state senator, Mrs. Robinson...is director of the Healthcare Institute, a for-profit college that provides training programs for certified nursing assistant, phlebotomist and licensed practical nursing."
The grant money was intended to be used for training programs at the Healthcare Institute, which Robinson, a registered nurse by trade, founded in 2015 — the same year her business was awarded the federal funds.
The feds were tipped off months ago by an anonymous claim that Robinson had used the grant money to buy a luxury handbag valued at more than $500, leading to an FBI raid on her home and the Healthcare Institute in February. Witnesses told WMC-TV at the time that they saw agents rolling file cabinets out of the vocational school.
Sen. Robinson held a press conference Thursday insisting that she would be vindicated, and claimed she was being targeted by the authorities.
"It is believed that if I were not in the position that I'm in, if I did not champion the voices, the views and the faces that I represent that I would not be in this moment I'm in today," Robinson said.
She added, "I'm committed to continuing to serve with the same integrity, the same passion, that I have demonstrated since you elected me to this office."
Robinson was elected in 2018.
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