Former congresswoman's fraud trial opening in Florida

AP News
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Posted: Apr 26, 2017 10:03 AM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown is accused of using a charity as a personal slush fund in a federal fraud and conspiracy trial opening in Jacksonville. She has denied the charges.

Brown, 70, who represented the Jacksonville congressional district since 1993, is one of the first three African-Americans elected to Congress from Florida since Reconstruction. She lost her re-election bid last year after she was indicted.

Brown has steadfastly denied wrongdoing, saying in a statement she was among black elected officials who have been "persecuted."

Testimony was scheduled to begin Wednesday afternoon, following jury selection that started Monday.

Federal investigators said Brown's One Door for Education Foundation was being billed as a way to give scholarships to poor students, but that the organization instead was doling out money to Brown and her associates.

Prosecutors say the One Door charity received $800,000 in donations from late 2012 to early 2016, and that it gave only one scholarship for $1,200 to an unidentified person in Florida.

Meanwhile, prosecutors say, Brown and two of her closest associates — former Chief of Staff Elias "Ronnie" Simmons and former One Door President Carla Wiley — "used the vast majority" of the funds for themselves.

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This included cash deposits to personal bank accounts, more than $200,000 for events hosted by Brown or in her honor and the use of luxury boxes for a Beyoncé concert and an NFL game.

Simmons and Wiley have already pleaded guilty and are expected to testify against her.

Brown's list of possible witnesses includes many notable names, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King III, though there has been no indication yet whether they'll testify.