Former Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida has been sentenced to five years in prison. Brown, who represented the city of Jacksonville for 24 years, was convicted of several counts of fraud and financial crimes for using funds from a fake charity.
On May 11, Brown was convicted of 12 out of 18 charges related to a fraudulent charity that she used to throw lavish events and for personal spending. The charges included mail fraud, wire fraud and several counts of lying to the IRS.
"While I respect the jury's decision, I disagree with it and I want to make it clear that I maintain my innocence," Brown said at the time, according to WTLV.
Between 2012 and 2016, Brown participated in a fraudulent charity named One Door, which was pitched to donors as a scholarship foundation for disadvantaged youths. While the IRS never recognized One Door as a legitimate charity, the foundation raised roughly $800,000.
Brown, along with former Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons and One Door Education President Carla Wiley, had used $330,000 from the sham charity on luxurious events. Nearly $30,000 of the funds were transferred into Brown's private bank account. The foundation only gave $1,200 in scholarships during its existence.
Both Simmons and Wiley testified against Brown after receiving plea deals. Brown asserted in court that she had been unaware of the financial crimes being committed by One Door.
On Dec. 4, U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan sentenced Brown to five years in federal prison. Simmons was sentenced to four years and Wiley received one year imprisonment and three years probation. All three will have to report to prison on Jan. 8, 2018, The Florida Times-Union reports.
"This is a sad day for everyone," Corrigan told Brown after issuing her sentence. 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."
In a separate statement, Corrigan blasted all three defendants for using ill-gotten donations for themselves on the pretense that they were helping disadvantaged children afford education.
"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."
Brown's lawyer, James Smith, told reporters that they would appeal her sentence.
acksonville FBI Special Agent in Charge Charles P. Spencer issued a statement in response to Brown's sentencing.
"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," Spencer said.
Brown was elected to the House in 1992. Her career in Congress ended when she lost a 2016 Democratic primary to Democratic Rep. Al Lawson of Florida.