Former Florida Congresswoman Gets Five-Year Sentence For Charity Scam

December 5, 2017

Describing the fraud as “shameless,” a federal judge Monday sentenced former Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown to five years in prison for her role in a scam that involved using charitable contributions for personal expenses and events.

The sentence, imposed by U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan, came after Brown was convicted in May on 18 felony counts. Corrigan also sentenced to prison Brown’s longtime chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, and a woman who started the purported charity, Carla Wiley.

In a 25-page sentencing order, Corrigan said the One Door for Education charity, which was originally established to help children, was “operated as a criminal enterprise” by Brown, Simmons and Wiley. He detailed how the charity raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, which forensic accountants said was siphoned off in cash withdrawals and used for such things as sky box seats at an NFL game and a luxury box at a Beyonce concert.

“These defendants systematically looted One Door funds which otherwise would have been available to help deserving children,” Corrigan said in the sentencing order. “Just think of the good that could have been done with that money if it had been used for its proper purpose.”

The Florida Times-Union reported that Brown, who served 24 years in Congress until losing a re-election bid last year, will report to prison no earlier than Jan. 8. The Times-Union also reported that Brown’s attorney, James Smith, said she will appeal the sentence.

The sentencing was a final step in the downfall of Brown, 71, long an influential figure in Jacksonville politics and the city’s African-American community. The 12-term congresswoman, whose district stretched from Jacksonville to Orlando, was also a master of constituent services, using “Corrine Delivers” as a slogan to tout her ability to bring home projects and services.

In a sentencing memo filed last month, Brown’s attorney said she had been one of the “greatest soldiers” in the civil-rights movement. Smith requested that she receive probation and community service, rather than a prison sentence.

“Corrine Brown’s life from this point forward will be extremely difficult,” Smith wrote. “She will never hold public offense again. The stigma of her federal convictions will make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for her to find productive and gainful employment. There is simply no reasonable basis to believe that she will ever commit another crime.”

In his order Monday, Corrigan said that he “seriously” considered the request for probation and community service, “but a sentence of probation for a member of Congress convicted of 18 counts involving mail, wire, and tax fraud would not be sufficient.”

Corrigan said Brown, one of the first black members of Congress from Florida since Reconstruction, was a “trailblazer who also has lifted up others.”

“But, having overcome all hurdles and risen to high office, Ms. Brown unfortunately succumbed to greed and an entitlement mentality,” Corrigan said.

The judge also sentenced Simmons to four years in prison and Wiley to 21 months. He said Wiley started the One Door for Education charity in 2011 to establish scholarships for students who were interested in becoming teachers, like Wiley’s mother.

“The defendants’ fraud was particularly shameless because it utilized a charity established to honor Ms. Wiley’s mother that was supposed to help disadvantaged children,” he said in the sentencing order. “Yet precious little of the hundreds of thousands of dollars donated to One Door was used for this purpose. Rather, One Door funds were primarily used to line the pockets of Ms. Wiley, Mr. Simmons and Ms. Brown or to fund events that mainly benefitted Ms. Brown, but did not help children.”

by Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida

Pictured top: Florida Congressman Corrine Brown spoke in favor of an Amtrak return to the Gulf Coast during an Amtrak inspection train stop in Atmore last year. Pictured inset: Brown shakes the hand of a veteran at the Atmore Amtrak event after walking through a sword arch provided by the Northview High School NJROTC. photos, click to enlarge.


13 Responses to “Former Florida Congresswoman Gets Five-Year Sentence For Charity Scam”

  1. dw wayne on January 4th, 2018 12:37 pm

    A Florida newspaper is trying to pick a fight with Christians for not supporting her. A juror was disqualified by the judge, after the juror told others on the jury that the Holy Spirit said she was not guilty. Clearly, it is a case of a juror misusing religion to try to bias the jury. Their is nothing wrong with Christians using facts, common sense, and their intellect to judge this case. The Orlando Sentinel is just trying to pick a fight and make Christians look bad.

  2. Jcellops on December 7th, 2017 8:49 am

    $1,200.00 ($200 + $1,000) token checks were written for “underprivileged children’s education”…….$798,800.00 of donations went straight into the scammers pockets…pitiful….it will a long time before she sees the inside of a voting booth! I wonder if Edward Waters College will rescind her Honorary Law Degree now?

  3. Trocarman on December 7th, 2017 6:29 am

    I agree with John.

  4. Gary on December 7th, 2017 6:28 am

    Brown is finally a convicted felon. She should spend the rest of he life in prison. She betrayed the trust of the people and deprived children of much needed funds. Brown should be made to pay restitution. LOCK HER UP.

  5. Citizen on December 5th, 2017 11:15 pm

    Watch those politicians with 501C (or foundations) especially democrats.

  6. Bonnie Exner on December 5th, 2017 5:49 pm

    We’re there checks and balances on this fund??How could this have happened if there was a yearly independent audit?? POWER CORRUPTS AND TOTAL POWER CORRUPTS TOTALLY!

  7. Safebear on December 5th, 2017 9:38 am

    “I pray Ms. Brown finds Jesus while she is there”… I never knew he went to jail?..

    OK but seriously – just because she committed a crime does not mean she was a church going Christian before. I mean look at the Christians in the State of Alabama they helped elect a person who says he is a Christian and is an allegedly a sexual abuser to the office of President and they are trying to elect another Christian and alleged child molester to the Senate.

    And I agree with David above, all penalties should be considered. Note that she reports to prison no earlier than January 8 probably because they have to make room for her.

  8. David Huie Green on December 5th, 2017 8:18 am

    ” 18 felonies and he “seriously” considered probation!!! ”

    You should always CONSIDER lesser, less expensive punishment.
    It strengthens your ruling if you decide to reject it.

    Now, let’s go after ALL the scammers with the same vigor. There is no telling how much damage they do.

    David for good judges and better people

  9. retired on December 5th, 2017 8:06 am

    she will never see the inside of prison, the apleal will keep her out. “Brown’s attorney said she had been one of the “greatest soldiers” in the civil-rights movement.” needed to make restitution and loose her federal retirement. that would be EQUAL RIGHTS!!!!!

  10. anne 1of2 on December 5th, 2017 7:32 am

    This woman has been a scammer for years and is playing the system so stand by, she loves being on the front page!

  11. Bob's Brother on December 5th, 2017 7:06 am

    From Brown’s near incoherent rant, “One two tree fo fi… Fladah gatuz don’t take no jive..”

  12. Carolyn Bramblett on December 5th, 2017 7:02 am

    Every once in awhile justice comes right on in. This woman deserves prison and good job to those who heard the case and brought back a true verdict.

  13. john on December 5th, 2017 6:40 am

    This is exactly why I don’t give to charities. If you want to help someone do it directly.

    So is Judge Corrigan saying he wanted to give her a slap on the wrist, but would have been seen as to lenient??? 18 felonies and he “seriously” considered probation!!! You or I 25 to 30.

    I pray Ms. Brown finds Jesus while she is there.

Have a comment on this story?

We welcome your comments on this story, but there are some rules to follow::

(1) Be Nice. No comments that slander another, no racism, no sexism, no personal attacks.

(2) No Harrassing Comments. If someone says something bad about you, don't respond. That's childish.

(3) No Libel. That's saying something is not true about someone. Don't do it.

(4) Keep it clean. Nothing vulgar, obscene or sexually related. No profanity or obvious substitutions. Period.

(5) reserves the right to remove any comments that violate our rules or we think to be inappropriate. We are not responsible for what is posted. Comments may not appear right away until they are approved by a moderator.

(6) Limit your comments to the subject in this story only, and limit comments to 300 words or less. Do not post copyrighted material. Comments will not be added to stories that are over 30 days old.

(7) No posts may advertise a commercial business or political group, or link to another commercial web site or political site of any kind.