ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

clear-night
39°
Mostly Sunny
H 59° L 38°
  • clear-night
    39°
    Current Conditions
    Mostly Sunny. H 59° L 38°
  • clear-day
    60°
    Afternoon
    Mostly Sunny. H 59° L 38°
  • cloudy-day
    55°
    Evening
    Partly Cloudy. H 66° L 46°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

Local
Events hosted by “sham” charity backed by Rep. Brown didn’t deliver, according to prosecutors
Close

Events hosted by “sham” charity backed by Rep. Brown didn’t deliver, according to prosecutors

Events hosted by “sham” charity backed by Rep. Brown didn’t deliver, according to prosecutors
Photo Credit: Action News Jax

Events hosted by “sham” charity backed by Rep. Brown didn’t deliver, according to prosecutors

The 2013 Corrine Brown Invitational Golf Tournament was advertised “to benefit the COMTO Jacksonville Chapter Scholarship Fund and other community non-profits”, but the head of COMTO says they have no record of any money coming in from the event.

Testimony Friday in the federal fraud trial of now-former Congresswoman Corrine Brown has focused on events allegedly funded by donations to a “sham” charity, One Door For Education, and whether those events actually did anything for charitable giving.

An FBI Special Agent on the case previously told the court that bank and financial records showed more than $55,000 from One Door was used toward this golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass. The event took place during the same time frame that the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials- or COMTO- was holding an annual conference in Jacksonville, and the President of COMTO at the time did attend the event.

Current COMTO President and CEO Brad Mims testified that their records show One Door made no donation to their scholarship fund, either at the national or local level. When prosecutors asked what a $25,000 donation to the organization directly would have meant, Mims said it breaks down to five or six scholarships.

Brown’s defense, James Smith III, questioned Mims whether he was at that event, and he was not. He added that he could not speak to any networking or future donation opportunities that may have been discussed at the event, only that their records did not reflect any hard giving.

FULL COVERAGE:The federal fraud trial of now-former Congresswoman Corrine Brown

Another event that allegedly tapped One Door funds- about $15,000 worth- is a luxury box at a Jaguars-Redskins game in DC. The head of the Florida Democratic Party, Stephen Bittel, says he paid more than $11,000 for his private plane to take people he believed to be One Door donors to what he thought was a fundraiser in DC. He also says he didn’t know Brown herself would be on the plane for the ride up to DC. Prosecutors say there was no fundraising done during the game. 

One of the people who was invited on the plane along with his family was Jack Hanania. Hanania says he had refused a requested $10,000-$12,000 donation to Brown’s campaign, but when he heard about One Door’s mission to help youth in education, he agreed to contribute $7,000. 

“Corrine knows how to raise money,” he says.

Hanania told the court after he donated, he was invited to the game- including on the plane with Brown- but his understanding was that these were separate. He told prosecutors he believed at the time that his donation to One Door was going to charity, and the event was being covered by other dollars.

An email from Brown’s Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons showed reference to a FedEx label to send the “payment” Hanania was making. That same email inquired who Hanania would be bringing on the plane with him, in reference to the football game. Hanania says he understood the payment to refer to his One Door donation, and not anything connected to the game itself- although it’s a distinction that Smith pointed out is far from clear on paper.

Prosecutors have also frequently questioned an annual reception held in Brown’s honor in conjunction with- although not affiliated with- the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Leadership Conference, which allegedly gets tens of thousands of dollars in One Door money. Smith has worked to show that there are valuable networking and development opportunities at this annual event- even if the focus itself is not on raising scholarship money.

Tasha Cole, a senior official with the CBCF who oversees scholarships and charitable giving, says there was no record of funding from One Door to go either toward CBCF scholarships or tables at their conference dinners.

Marva Brown Johnson- who was with Bright House Networks at the time- says she paid for ALC attendance and tables through One Door, though. She says she was inspired by Brown to attend the conference, and ultimately the conference inspired future charitable interests and giving. Proosecutors have checks and invoices that show tens of thousands of dollars from Bright House to One Door to go toward various conference expenses.

Brown Johnson is one of a few donors who testified on Friday that they were aware that some of the money they were giving was not going to scholarships, and would instead be used on various expenses connected to putting on events. Bright House Network, for example, cut a $10,000 check to sponsor Brown’s golf tournament.

Another donor gave tens of thousands of dollars toward Brown’s reception at the annual ALC conference and the veteran’s even Brown also hosted that week. Richard Lipsky owns some hospital facilities that were working to open their doors to veterans who were struggling with the VA, and he admitted he believed Brown could help him with that process. In terms of the $20,000 from the hospitals and $5,000 personal check he cut to One Door, though, he knew that was to support various events with catering, entertainment, and other areas. In fact, put an additional $4,290 toward an event after getting a call from either Corrine Brown or her daughter Shantrel that something happened with a portion of a catering bill, asking for his help to cover it.

Some $90,000 was given by the Picerne Development Corporation to One Door- at least some in part to also host events. Director of Government Affairs Don Miller says the requests for funding from Brown and her staff to the head of the company, Bob Picerne, became so frequent that he actually tried to cut of communication at some point.

“I kind of felt like he was being taken advantage of,” Miller said.

Overall, even the donors who knew they were at least in part funding the expenses of running various events, they all also shared an expectation that excess funds, as well as their other contributions, would be going to scholarships.


The first week in the federal fraud trial of now-former Congresswoman Corrine Brown is done. We're taking a look back at the big moments, and what to expect next week.

Posted by News 104.5 WOKV on Friday, April 28, 2017

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

The Latest News Headlines

  • President Donald Trump will not make a planned trip to Mar-a-Lago today because of a looming federal government shutdown, a White House official told The Palm Beach Post on Friday morning. >> Read more trending news Trump was scheduled to arrive at Palm Beach International Airport tonight for a weekend trip that included a Saturday fundraiser for his 2020 re-election campaign at Mar-a-Lago. The official who confirmed today’s travel is off did not address the president’s plans for the remainder of the weekend. Trump was planning to make the 12th Palm Beach visit of his presidency. But Congress has not reached a spending agreement to keep the federal government operating past midnight. Saturday is the one-year anniversary of Trump taking office. The Trump campaign recently announced a “special sweepstakes” in which a winner will get to attend dinner Saturday at Mar-a-Lago with Trump, first lady Melania Trump and Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump.
  • Police in Florida arrested a 28-year-old man on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol after authorities said he attempted to order a burrito from a Bank of America after confusing it for a Taco Bell, according to multiple reports. >> Read more trending news Records from the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office show authorities arrested Douglas Jon Francisco, 28, on Wednesday. The manager of the Bank of America branch on Mariner Boulevard in Spring Hill, Martin Claussen, called authorities Wednesday afternoon after he said he found a blue Hyundai in the bank’s drive-up bank lane with a man who appeared to be passed out inside, WTSP reported. Claussen said he had to bang on the car window several times before Francisco awoke, according to the Tampa Bay Times. When Francisco saw the bank manager, deputies said he tried to order a burrito. >> Read more Floridoh! stories  Claussen told Francisco that he was not at a Taco Bell and Francisco drove the Hyundai to the bank’s front parking lot, according to the Times. Deputies said he was in the front parking lot, the car still idling, when authorities arrived. In an arrest report, a deputy wrote that Francisco “made several statements that were differing from reality” and denied asking Claussen for a burrito. Deputies said his responses during a field sobriety test “were slow in a way that was consistent with someone on prescription narcotics,” WTSP reported. He was given a drug test, the results of which were pending. During a search of the Hyundai, deputies said they found prescription medication that had been made out in Francisco’s name, according to the Times. Jail records show Francisco was booked into the Hernando County Detention Center around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and released Thursday afternoon on a $500 bond.
  • As much of the nation deals with a widespread flu season-- Florida is no different. The Florida Department of Health says flu activity is high statewide and continues to increase, with those increases observed in all regions.  The department says since the start of the 2017-2018 flu season, there have been 107 total outbreaks of the flu and a flu-like illness. This is more outbreaks than what's usually seen at this time in flu season.  According to the health department stats, nearly all of the outbreaks, 94%, have been in facilities that serve people a higher risk for flu complications, such as children and adults, 65 and older, like schools and healthcare facilities.  Duval and Baker counties are among those experiencing recent outbreaks.  In Duval County, the health department says a nursing and rehabilitation center reported 4 residents with a flu-like illness, which then tested positive for influenza A. Two long-term care facilities also reported a combined 15 individuals with flu-like illnesses. One group later tested positive for influenza B; the investigation into the other illness is still ongoing.  Meanwhile, in Baker County, outbreaks of a flu-like illness have been reported at a health care facility and a long-term care facility, involving a combined total of 15 people. Testing is ongoing in both cases.  With all of these recent outbreaks, the department of health says you should get a flu shot if you haven't already.  If you do get sick, it's recommended that you stay home until you're fever-free for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medication.
  • A woman died Friday after falling from the balcony of a room on the Jacksonville-based Carnival Elation cruise ship. The woman fell from the balcony to several decks below, Carnival said in a statement. Carnival Elation departed Jacksonville on Thursday for a four-day cruise to the Bahamas. Carnival sent the following statement to Action News Jax: .@CarnivalCruise confirms woman died today after falling from balcony aboard Jacksonville-based Carnival Elation @ActionNewsJax @WOKVNews pic.twitter.com/1anriQWt1g — Lorena Inclán (@LorenaANjax) January 19, 2018 'Early this morning a guest fell from her balcony to several decks below. The ship’s medical team responded immediately, but, unfortunately, she passed away. The incident was reported to all proper authorities and CARE Team support was offered to fellow travelers and her family. Our thoughts and prayers are with the deceased and her family. Carnival Elation departed Jacksonville Jan. 18 on a four-day cruise to the Bahamas.
  • The week started with a little trash talk from the underdog . The rest of it was dominated by speculation about a certain 40-year-old quarterback's injured throwing hand .Plenty of intrigue for when the Jaguars and Patriots meet in Sunday's AFC championship game?New England (14-3), the defending Super Bowl champion, is favored heading into its seventh straight conference title game. But the polished veneer it normally displays at this time of year is showing flecks of imperfection after Tom Brady injured his right hand during practice.The injury kept Brady limited in workouts to begin the week and caused him to sit out practice entirely on Thursday.Brady has never missed a playoff start during his 18-year career that includes four Super Bowl MPV honors. He said a bit contentiously only 'We'll see' on Friday when asked if he would play Sunday.He wore red gloves and responded to other questions about the hand's status by saying 'I'm not talking about that.'The Patriots' top-ranked offense will need another signature performance from Brady against the Jaguars' second-ranked defense .Jacksonville (12-6), trying to earn a trip to its first Super Bowl, has scored eight defensive touchdowns this season, three more than any other team. That's the most defensive touchdowns in a season by one team since the 2012 Bears.Brady has faced a top-2 scoring defense in the playoffs three times, going 3-0 with a passer rating of 100-plus in each game.Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell said their respect for Brady is high. Then he dismissed the notion that anyone in Jacksonville felt like the Jags were simply playing with 'house money' after surprising Pittsburgh in the divisional round.'We have earned the right to be here,' he said. 'We have put a lot of time and effort in, so this is an opportunity we feel like we deserve and we have prepared for. I can honestly say I expected to be here.'Jacksonville will also be up against history: The Patriots have won the past seven meetings with the Jaguars and two straight in the postseason. Since Jacksonville entered the NFL in 1995, it is 1-10 against the Patriots, including playoff games.'We are going to go out and there do everything possible to stay alive and earn the right to be in the Super Bowl,' Campbell said. 'They say you have to beat the best to be the best, so I can't wait to get out there and try.'Quarterback Blake Bortles, who has been the subject of criticism at times during his career , said Sunday isn't about trying to prove anyone wrong.'I don't think so. Personally, I do not care,' he said.Here are some things to watch for:FOURNETTE'S HEALTH: Jaguars rookie RB Leonard Fournette said he is feeling 'good' after he was rear-ended in what authorities say was a minor three-car crash early in the week.Fournette ran for 109 yards and three touchdowns against the Steelers despite reinjuring his right ankle in the first half. It was his most productive game in three months.'I feel good in spite of the ankle and stuff,' Fournette said. 'Just taking care of my body, but overall I feel good.'BULLETIN BOARD MATERIAL? All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey caused a stir when he told thousands of fans awaiting the team's return after their win over the Steelers that the Jaguars 'are going to the Super Bowl and we are going to win that (expletive).'Asked about Ramsey's comment, Patriots special teams captain Matt Slater said Ramsey has reason to show confidence.'He should be confident, because he is very, very good,' Slater said. 'The good Lord made that guy, and he said, 'Let there be corner.' And there he is. I'd be confident if I were him as well.'CONTAINING GRONK: Coach Doug Marrone has seen plenty of Rob Gronkowski dating back to his stint as Buffalo's head coach. His approach to trying to slow down a tight end he calls a 'nightmare' of a matchup hasn't changed much.'Hope they do not throw him the football. Hope he drops it,' Marrone said. 'There is no secret formula. I'd like to watch a game where someone has been able to do it. He is going to make his plays and you hope those plays don't end up killing you.'In his past six postseason games, Gronk has 512 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. He is looking for his seventh playoff game in a row with a TD catch.SIZING THEM UP: Brandin Cooks is used to being underestimated because of his size. So the 5-foot-10 Patriots receiver isn't worried about matching up against the taller players in Jacksonville's secondary.Both Jaguars starting cornerbacks, Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, are listed at 6-foot-1 and 6-0 respectively.'I mean, you go and play,' Cooks said. 'We're not talking measurements at this point in the season, you know?'Cooks said Bouye he's gotten better since he faced him during joint practices this summer.'At the end of the day they're physical. And that's how they play,' Cooks said. 'And they use that to their strength. So we gotta be ready to be able to match that physicality.'___AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Jacksonville, Florida contributed to his report.___For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

The Latest News Videos