Brown Chief of Staff Pleads Guilty

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    Elias “Ronnie” Simmons, former chief of staff for former Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown, pled guilty Wednesday to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and one count of theft of government property in connection with the federal investigation into a phony Virginia charity prosecutors say Brown used as a personal slush fund.

    On March 4, 2016, Carla Wiley, President of the One Door charity, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud after it was determined that she had deposited $800,000 into the foundation’s account over four years, but spent only $1,200 on charitable purposes.  Wiley transferred to herself more than a hundred thousand dollars.

    Simmons and Brown were indicted for using “the vast majority” of the One Door charity donations for their personal and professional benefit, including tens of thousands of dollars in cash deposits that Simmons made to Brown’s personal bank accounts, and more than $200,000 which was allegedly used to pay for events hosted by Brown or held in her honor.

    Cong. Corrine Brown
    Former Cong. Corrine Brown

    Brown faces 22 counts under the same indictment that alleges she and Simmons worked with Wiley to set up the sham charity.  According to prosecutors, the 51-year-old Simmons admitted that he and Brown used “One Door for Education” to pay for a golf tournament in Ponte Vedra Beach as well as luxury boxes at a Beyonce concert and at an NFL game in Washington, D.C.  Simmons also told prosecutors he arranged “congressional employment for a close relative, who received over $735,000 in government salary payments between 2001 and early 2016 despite performing no known work for the U.S. House of Representatives,” according to a Department of Justice press release.

    Brown, who spent 24 years in office as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was defeated in the Democratic primary last year by current Congressman Al Lawson.  She is scheduled to go on trial April 24.