Former U.S. Representative Corrine Brown was found guilty Thursday of pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars that she raised for a fake charity alongside her former chief of staff, Elias “Ronnie” Simmons. Brown was a member of the House of Representatives for more than two decades, and one of the first African-Americans from Florida to be elected to Congress. She ran for reelection in 2016, but was defeated shortly after news surfaced that she had been indicted on seven counts of wire fraud, five counts of mail fraud, three counts of falsifying tax returns, and one count of conspiracy.
From 2012 to 2016, Brown and Simmons were aligned with the One Door for Education Foundation, a Virginia-based organization claiming to provide education expenses like college scholarships and school computers to underprivileged students. Brown was accused of using her status as a congresswoman to solicit more than $800,000 for the fraudulent charity. Federal prosecutors said Brown and Simmons used the donations to finance vacations and car repairs. The Justice Department also accused them of diverting more than $300,000 in funds “for events either hosted by Brown or held in her honor,” including a high-profile golf tournament, box seats for an NFL game, and tickets to a Beyoncé concert. According to Brown’s indictment, only $1,200 of the charity’s funds were used for scholarships over five years.