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Ex-Florida Rep. Pleads Guilty In Charitable Giving Case

Corrine Brown, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-Fla.), pleaded guilty to one count of engaging in a corrupt endeavor to obstruct and impede the due administration of the internal revenue laws. Chief Judge Timothy J. Corrigan sentenced Brown to time already served in prison. Brown, 75, was also ordered to pay $62,650.99 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. She waived the right to seek refund of $31,062.06 previously collected from her.

As part of Brown’s plea agreement, she acknowledged that between Oct. 15, 2009 and Oct. 15, 2015, she directed her accountant to file several income tax returns that over-reported her charitable giving by inflating total gift amounts, or claiming nonexistent gifts, to a variety of charitable and nonprofit entities.

Brown additionally compelled two Jacksonville nonprofits, Edward Waters College and Community Rehabilitation Center, to create letters that falsely represented her donations of furniture, accessories and her time. Over the course of several years, Brown claimed $39,000 in false or overstated donations to Edward Waters College, a Christian historically Black university and $26,500 in false donations to Community Rehabilitation Center, which aids people with substance abuse or mental health issues. The letters were intended for Brown’s use during an Internal Revenue Service audit.

Brown also claimed $24,500 in false or overstated donations to One Door For Education. During Brown’s trial the Leesburg, Va.-based nonprofit was found to have largely focused on funding events centering around Brown and providing cash for the personal use of One Door president Carla Wiley and Ronnie Simmons, Brown’s former chief of staff. Brown also claimed to have made smaller donations to a double handful of other organizations.

Brown also did not report income associated with cash deposits into her bank accounts. Brown personally signed each tax return under perjury of penalty, “knowing each one contained false information,” according to a statement from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.

Brown had been previously found guilty for the above offenses, and was sentenced to five years in prison. She was released after two years, eight months and nine days in 2021. The maximum sentence under her plea would have been three years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $250,000. As part of her plea, all previous counts except for the one she pled to were dismissed.

During her appeal process, her earlier conviction was vacated on the basis of a judge having incorrectly removed a juror who said the “Holy Spirit” told him Brown was not guilty, according to published reports.

Brown served in the U.S. House of Representatives between 1993 and 2017. She represented Florida’s third district from 1993 and 2013, and Florida’s fifth district between 2013 and 2017. Brown lost her seat in the 2016 Democratic primary to Rep. Al Lawson.

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