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“One Door” President spoke with former Rep. Brown, others about not talking to FBI
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“One Door” President spoke with former Rep. Brown, others about not talking to FBI

“One Door” President spoke with former Rep. Brown, others about not talking to FBI
Photo Credit: Action News Jax
Carla Wiley, who had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud in the "One Door For Education" investigation, at the federal courthouse in Downtown Jacksonville.

“One Door” President spoke with former Rep. Brown, others about not talking to FBI

She was the first to plead guilty in connection to the case, and now, she’s the first of the alleged co-conspirators to take the stand.

Carla Wiley was the President of One Door For Education- a group to honor Wiley’s mother, Amy Anderson, through scholarships and other opportunities for students pursuing a future in the education field. Wiley is one of three people who have been accused of representing that group as a non-profit and soliciting more than $800,000 in donations over several years, but allegedly using the money for personal expenses, travel, and events instead. The other two alleged co-conspirators are now-former Congresswoman Corrine Brown and her Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons, who was dating Wiley.

Both Wiley and Simmons have already pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the government, as Brown now stands trial.

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

Wiley says the day before the FBI visited her office for their initial interview in January 2016, she got a call from Brown, Simmons, and Brown’s daughter Shantrel, where they told Wiley she did not need to speak with the FBI. She says the others on the call had already been interviewed by the FBI, and Brown did not seem surprised that investigators were looking in to One Door. Wiley says the FBI was at her office for about two hours the next day, and she lied about One Door’s charitable activity and how the money was being spent. 

“The main reason was fear. I felt like if I lied and had them leave the office, it was all going to go away,” Wiley said.

She says she then got a lawyer, and soon agreed to cooperate with the government.

Wiley says the fraud case stems from 2012, when she and Simmons were boating. The two were dating at the time and had actually been in a relationship about five or six years prior. She says Simmons told her he needed a non-profit to host an event for Brown, so she offered up One Door. She gave Simmons the checks and debit card for One Door, believing that he would manage the funds “correctly”. After she gave up the checks and debit card, she says she could only access the bank account online or in person at the bank.

She told the court Simmons would frequently forge her name on checks from One Door. In fact, of the two scholarships that were ever given by One Door, Wiley says the first- a $1,000 check from her personal account, was legitimate. The second check- for $200 from the One Door account- was signed by Wiley, but Wiley says it was in Simmons’ handwriting and she hadn’t been aware of the check until it was shown to her as the result of this investigation.

Once she handed over the checks and debit card, Wiley says Simmons essentially took control of the organization- although she maintained the title of President. She says she would only communicate with donors when Simmons told her to, and that Simmons and Brown did all of the fundraising. While One Door had a Board- including a Treasurer- Wiley says they weren’t active.

In fact, Wiley says she at one point told Simmons that the group’s Treasurer was getting suspicious, in the hopes that it would change how the account was being used. She admitted that was a lie, and the Treasurer had not said anything to her.

She told the court that she did not let Simmons or Brown know that she was transferring One Door money in to her own account online to use for personal expenses, including car payments for her and her son. She also said she didn’t initially realize Simmons was also allegedly funneling money to his own use. 

After a special golf tournament hosted by One Door in 2013, Wiley says she realized lots of money was coming in to the group, but scholarships weren’t going out. Those suspicions were confirmed when she and Simmons went on a romantic trip to South Florida, including staying at a luxury hotel, and Wiley says she thought Simmons had treated her to the trip. She later learned the One Door account was used to pay the expenses.

Of the big events that allegedly used One Door funding- including a golf tournament, Jaguars game, and Beyonce concert luxury suite- Wiley says she did not see any promotion or discussion of scholarship opportunities and charitable giving.

Brown’s defense is putting all of the blame for what happened on Simmons and Wiley. Brown’s attorney, James Smith III, says Brown became increasingly dependent on Simmons to handle her travel, finances, and more, and Simmons betrayed that trust.

Smith also worked to cast doubt on Wiley’s credibility, by showing that she was in charge of registering One Door as a non-profit, and that even though she knew it wasn’t registered, she would still solicit donations.

It’s not something the prosecution tried to hide.

“Did you lie to get donations to One Door For Education?” asked Justice Department Public Integrity Section Deputy Chief Eric Olshan.

“Yes,” Wiley responded.

“Did you use One Door for Education money for your own benefit?” from Olshan.

“Yes,” Wiley answered again.

  GALLERY: One Door For Education’s website

Wiley was the first to plead guilty back in March 2016. Brown and Simmons were indicted in July 2016.

She was charged by information for one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud- a count to which she pleaded guilty. She could face up to twenty years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but is hoping for leniency as a result of her cooperation with the government. While there is no promise of any sentencing recommendation that will result from the plea deal, the defense questioned Wiley to show prosecutors don’t make any recommendation until Wiley’s testimony is done.

“You’re scare of going to prison, right?” asked Brown’s defense James Smith III.

“Yes,” Wiley said.

Simmons is expected to testify later this week. He also agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of his plea agreement. He was indicted on 19 charges and pleaded guilty to two- conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and theft of government funds. He could be sentenced to twenty years in prison for the conspiracy charge and ten years for the theft charge.

During the jury selection process, the panel was told to carefully consider the testimony of anyone who accepted a plea deal, because they are hoping to gain favor with the government. They were also instructed, however, that plea bargaining in itself is an accepted and allowable practice.

Brown is facing 22 charges, including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, aiding and abetting mail fraud, aiding and abetting wire fraud, scheme to conceal material facts, corrupt endeavor to obstruct and impede the due administration of internal revenue law, and filing false tax returns. If convicted on all counts, she could be sentenced to more than 350 years in prison.

The jury must be unanimous to either convict or acquit Brown on the charges.

WOKV is inside of the courtroom following the latest testimony. Get updates by following our reporter Stephanie Brown on Twitter, and check back at WOKV.com for updates through the day.

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  • Two women are dead, including a 2016 candidate for a Delaware State Senate seat, in a Pennsylvania murder-suicide that investigators said was sparked by one woman’s affair with the other’s husband.  Radnor Township police officials reported Tuesday that Jennair Gerardot, 47, of Wilmington, Delaware, broke into the rental home of 33-year-old Meredith Sullivan Chapman on Monday and waited for Chapman to return home from work at Villanova University, where she was recently named an assistant vice president.  According to the Villanovan, the university’s newspaper, Chapman started her new job a week before she was killed. She lived in the house where she died about the same length of time.  “Couldn’t be more excited...,” she wrote online Monday, about two hours before she was killed. “Just a week on the job and I’m already feeling the love from #NovaNation.” When Chapman arrived home Monday evening, Gerardot shot her once in the head before turning the gun on herself. Gerardot also died of a single gunshot wound to the head, Radnor Township Deputy Chief Christopher Flanagan said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.  >> Read more trending news A Taurus Tracker .357 Magnum revolver was found at the crime scene, with two of its seven rounds missing.  Investigators believe Gerardot took a train from Delaware to Chapman’s home – while wearing a wig and clothing later found discarded in a bag at the scene -- and broke in through the front door, cleaning up the glass so her target would not notice anything wrong when she came home.  “It’s not a love triangle. You had a man who was married that was having an affair with this other woman,” Radnor Township Police Superintendent William Colarulo said during the news conference.  “The wife knew about it. And this was a calculated, planned attack,” Colarulo said. “She broke into the house. She was lying in wait, and she shot her as soon as she walked in, and then she shot herself.  “There were emails and text messages indicating what she planned to do. Detectives are still sorting that out.” Flanagan said Tuesday that officers were called to Chapman’s home just after 7 p.m. Monday after receiving a 911 call reporting two people down and blood inside the residence. They were met in the driveway by Gerardot’s husband, Mark Gerardot, who said he believed his wife might be inside the house.  The officers went inside the home and found both women dead in the kitchen. Flanagan said that Mark Gerardot, 49, told police officers that he and his wife were having domestic problems that also involved Chapman. Investigators said he had been led to believe that Chapman would be meeting him nearby for dinner.  The Courier-Express in DuBois, Pennsylvania, reported that Mark Gerardot was waiting for Chapman to show up when he began receiving disturbing text messages from his wife. He went to Chapman’s home because of those messages and found the bodies.  See the entire Radnor Township police news conference, streamed live Tuesday by the News Journal in Wilmington, below.  Chapman’s neighbor, Melissa DeJoseph, told the Inquirer she saw the victim drive up between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. and, with a bag over her shoulder, walk toward the door. A few seconds later, she heard sharp noises from inside the house. “In my head, I was, like, ‘Is that a gunshot? No, it can’t be a gunshot,’” DeJoseph told the Inquirer.  Other neighbors also reported hearing the gunshots.  Chapman was married to Luke Chapman, a former Newark city councilman, but they were no longer living together, the Inquirer reported. Luke Chapman announced earlier this year that he would not run for a fourth term in office.  Prior to her position at Villanova, Meredith Chapman served as senior director of marketing for the University of Delaware, where she also got her college degree. She also taught at the university as an adjunct professor.  She worked on several political campaigns, as well as on Capitol Hill, where she collaborated with former Vice President Joe Biden when he was a Delaware state senator, according to her Facebook page. She served as communications manager for then-U.S. Rep. Mike Castle in 2007 and 2008, the News Journal reported.  Chapman ran unsuccessfully for a Delaware State Senate seat in 2016, losing the election to opponent Dave Sokola. Sokola expressed shock at the news of Chapman’s slaying. “Kathy and I are stunned by the news about Meredith and I’m deeply, deeply saddened to learn that such a promising young woman’s life has been cut so short,” Sokola wrote on Facebook. “I’ve always respected my opponents and Meredith was certainly no exception. She was sharp, hard-working and motivated by a sincere desire to serve her community. She was bound for great things and it’s tragic for that light to go out so soon. “I’ve also had the privilege to work with her husband, Luke, over the years, and he especially is in our hearts today. We wish him strength, peace, and privacy in what we know is an incredibly difficult and painful time.' Like Sokola, Chapman’s friends expressed shock on social media.  “I’m absolutely floored,” Richard Wisk wrote. “Meredith, RIP, you will be missed tremendously.” Colleen Auer-Smith described Chapman as a bright light and a “ray of sunshine.” “Why of all people? I don’t understand,” Auer-Smith wrote.  A family spokesperson described Chapman as a “beacon of light” to all who knew her in a statement obtained by the News Journal. “She loved her family fiercely, was a compassionate friend and among the most talented and innovative professionals in her field,” the statement read. “Her death was sudden and tragic, but will not define who she was to the thousands of people who loved her. Her family is devastated, heartbroken and requests privacy and respect as they grieve.” Mark Gerardot worked as a creative director at the University of Delaware until earlier this month, when he left that position. Before her move to Villanova University, Chapman was his supervisor, the News Journal reported.  He and his wife also previously ran their own marketing and design company, the Inquirer reported.  Jennair Gerardot also spent five years as marketing manager for a South Carolina-based marketing company, Circor Instrumentation, before leaving that job in December.  According to a post she wrote on the NextDoor neighborhood app in February, she left her position at Circor because of her husband’s new job at the University of Delaware.  The Inquirer, which tracked down Gerardot’s post, reported that she went on NextDoor pleading for help with her marriage. “I just transferred to Delaware in December for my husband’s new job, and he’s telling me he wants a divorce,” she wrote, according to the newspaper. “I don’t know anyone and am completely clueless to the area.” She asked for a recommendation for a reputable, successful and driven divorce lawyer.  Gerardot returned to NextDoor in March.  “Please recommend an EXCELLENT marriage counselor for couple on the brink of divorce,” she wrote.  The Inquirer reported that the posts did not make clear whether the couple ever sought counseling. 
  • Over two weeks after being the subject of an FBI raid, President Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer filed notice in a California federal court on Wednesday that he would exercise his right against self-incrimination, and refuse to answer questions about a lawsuit linked to a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, who has claimed she had a past affair with Mr. Trump. “Based upon the advice of counsel, I will assert my 5th amendment rights in connection with all proceedings in this case due to the ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York,” Cohen said in a court declaration. The legal battle centers on the $130,000 payment – which Daniels said amounted to ‘hush money’ – to keep her quiet before the 2016 election, money which Cohen has publicly acknowledged that he paid. In his court filing on Wednesday, Cohen made clear “the FBI seized various electronic devices and documents in my possession, which contain information relating to the $130,000 payment.” Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, immediately seized upon the decision by Cohen, labeling it a ‘stunning development.’ This is a stunning development. Never before in our nation’s history has the attorney for the sitting President invoked the 5th Amend in connection with issues surrounding the President. It is esp. stunning seeing as MC served as the “fixer” for Mr. Trump for over 10 yrs. #basta — Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 25, 2018 Meanwhile, the President seemed to be ready to personally get involved in Cohen’s legal battle over the evidence seized in the FBI raids, which involved information and electronic devices in his home, office and hotel room in New York. In a letter sent to Federal Judge Kimba Wood in New York, lawyers for Mr. Trump wrote, “our client will make himself available, as needed, to aid in our privilege review on his behalf.” It’s not clear what documents the government has seized from Cohen which would involve the President, what subjects they might cover, and how it is related to any investigation of Cohen. Judge Wood set a Thursday midday hearing to get an update from the FBI on what exactly was seized in the April 9 raids, and what has been duplicated and shared with Cohen and his lawyers. For now, those documents are in the hands of a special FBI team, which is not linked to the investigation of Cohen; the judge has suggested she might appoint a “special master” to oversee the handling of that evidence.
  • The Jacksonville Jaguars “State of the Franchise” was packed with new information about the fan experience, stadium, Downtown development and more. 1. New season, new look- The Jags have unveiled their new uniforms, which are designed to honor tradition. The two-tone helmets are gone, in favor of a shine-finished traditional look, and the numbering is more simple and modern. The uniforms also have features, like increased ventilation around sweat areas, which are aimed at giving the team a competitive advantage.  GALLERY: New uniforms for the Jacksonville Jaguars For the first time, the team has teal pants- and teal will now be the “Color Rush” uniform, instead of the gold ones the Jags have been using in prior years. Teal is also the alternate uniform, and expected to be worn several times over the season.  2. Cheaper concession options- Concession “classics” will now be only $5 at the stadium. These include hot dogs, nachos, pretzels, fries, and soft drinks. Fans will also still be allowed to bring in food, in accordance with the team’s policy and the NFL’s clear bag rule.  3. Your dog can now cheer for the cats- Among the changes inside of the stadium, the Jags are building a dog daycare/park in partnership with Pet Paradise. This will be on the South End Zone fan deck, will have a water feature, and will only be open on gamedays. Dogs will be pre-screened to ensure they are up to date on shots and have the right temperament for this environment. Fans will be able to see the action inside of the park, but only trained staff will be in with the dogs themselves.  4. Expect a crowd- Tarps will NOT be back at EverBank Field, meaning there are about 3,500 additional tickets being sold every game. There are also a handful of new premium seating options the team rolled out, which they say have already been snatched up. The Jags are also projecting their highest season ticket renewal rate and new season ticket sales, since they started tracking that in 2004.  5. Honoring the military- The team emphasized that veterans and members of the military are not only important to the City of Jacksonville, but to the Jags themselves. The Jags have the highest concentration of veterans in market, compared to other NFL markets. To celebrate that, the North End Zone fan deck is being rebranded in partnership with the veteran-owned business Grunt Style. In addition to creating a competition area for fans and a “hometown pride” area, this is also where the team will celebrate a veteran of the game and veteran business owner of the game, and ring the fourth quarter bell.  6. London will keep calling- The Jags are proud of being the team that has played the most London games of any other in the NFL. They said that game is valuable strategically and in terms of revenue, and they will work on protecting their position. Meanwhile, the UK fan club continues to grow, now standing at more than 86,000 members.  The Jags play the Eagles in London on October 28th at 9:30AM.  7. TIAA Bank going beyond the stadium- We got our first look at the new signage we’ll see at the stadium, as EverBank Field becomes “TIAA Bank Field” before the next football season, but TIAA Bank also announced a pledge to help the community.  The Jaguars and EverBank- which is becoming TIAA Bank- are launching the One Team. One Home. Initiative. They’re partnering to contribute $1 million in the next five years to help build and repair homes in Northeast Florida. This will be a collaboration with Habitat for Humanity affiliates, as well as volunteers and Jags players. EverBank is also pledging additional money to build and repair 100 homes in Florida where TIAA has an existing presence.  8. Lynyrd Skynyrd planning a big homecoming- The band will bring their farewell tour to EverBank Field on September 2nd. They’ll be joined by Kid Rock, Jason Aldean, and others, in a day-long event that also includes food trucks and games.  9. Sports Complex development- The team is still negotiating a redevelopment of the Jacksonville Shipyards, but they’re now expanding on that by pitching a $2.5 billion redevelopment in the Sports Complex. The first step is expected to be Lot J- which could see three mixed-use buildings and a “live arena”. To compensate for the loss in parking, a 3,000 space parking garage would go up where there’s currently a retention pond.  The team says this would be a public/private partnership, but they don’t have an estimate yet on what they would ask for from the City.  GALLERY:Shipyards redevelopment If the Hart Bridge ramps are taken down- which is something the City is currently pursuing- the Jags and their partner The Cornish Companies would seek to continue developing, with a high-end hotel, convention center, upgraded marina and more along the River.  10. A big schedule faces the team in 2018- Technically, this came out after the State of the Franchise, but in the spirit of all this Jags news, it’s also worth mentioning that the team’s schedule is out! Let us know what you think of the announcements on Facebook:
  • It’s a big day for Jaguars fans with Thursday’s kick-off of the NFL Draft from Arlington, Texas at AT&T Stadium. The Jags enter the draft with seven picks, including the 29th overall selection. A big first-round party will be held in Jacksonville for fans who want to celebrate any new additions to the team. In what the team is calling the largest draft party on the First Coast, fans will be flocking to Daily’s Place and the Dream Finder’s Home Flex Field Thursday night from 6:30 to 11:30 pm. Fans will be able to celebrate with team members beginning at 6:30, with fans’ first chance to see the team’s new uniforms up close to follow at 7:15. TV coverage of the first round of the NFL Draft will appear on video boards in both the amphitheater bowl and flex field. The free event will feature player autograph opportunities and special draft day merchandise and concessions for all guests.  Registration is required. Parking will be free on a first-come, first-served basis in Lots C, E, G, M, W, Y, Maxwell House and Tailgaters. You’ll be able to get in at Gates 1 and 4. Keep in mind there will be multiple events in Downtown Jacksonville on Thursday night, so Gator Bowl Blvd. will be closed between A. Phillip Randolph and Talleyrand Ave beginning at 4:30 pm.
  • An Ohio teen has been charged with aggravated murder in the fatal shooting of his 11-year-old brother, an act that police officials said was premeditated.  Streetsboro Police Department officials said that officers and city fire medics responded just after 9:30 p.m. Monday to the boys’ home, where they found the 11-year-old with a single gunshot wound. He was taken to a hospital, where he later died.  “The victim’s 13-year-old brother was taken into custody in what appears to be a premeditated shooting,” police officials said in a statement.  Police and Streetsboro school officials identified the victim as Caleb Lishing. The older brother has been identified as Elijah Lishing, a student at Bio-Med Science Academy in Rootstown.  News 5 in Cleveland reported that the Elijah Lishing fled the scene on foot, but was found nearby. He was arrested and booked into the Portage County Juvenile Detention Center.  The boys’ were with a babysitter when the shooting took place. News 5 reported that the sitter frantically called 911 to get help. “Something terrible has happened,” the woman said in the call, which the news station obtained. “I’m babysitting two kids. There’s blood everywhere.” The caller told police that Caleb Lishing went to bed around 8:30 p.m. and his brother, a short time later. When she heard a ‘pop,” she ran into the younger boy’s bedroom. “The other boy came out and said, ‘What was that?’ and I ran in here,” the babysitter said.  Caleb Lishing had a hole in his neck and the room smelled of gunpowder, News 5 reported.  “He’s got blood just pouring out of his mouth,” the caller said. “I don’t think he’s breathing.” The babysitter did CPR on the victim until paramedics arrived. The Record-Courier in Kent reported that the woman screamed for Elijah Lishing, but he didn’t respond. “He’s 11 years old and I don’t know where his brother went,” the woman said of Caleb Lishing. “I heard a pop and there’s blood in his chest.” >> Read more trending news Elijah Lishing is accused of shooting his brother with a .357 Magnum stolen from his grandfather’s home. The Record-Courier reported that the teen had to break into a locked gun cabinet to get the weapon.  He is accused of taking apart part of the cabinet when he couldn’t find the key, which the grandfather kept at a different home, the newspaper reported.  Monday’s shooting isn’t the first time police were called to the Lishing home. Police reports indicate that officers were called to the house four days before the homicide after Elijah Lishing’s stepmother reported that he was being “unruly.”  The teen, who expressed thoughts of harming himself, was taken to a behavioral health center for evaluation, News 5 reported. It was unclear what treatment he may have received.  The boys’ parents were out of the country at the time of the shooting, but were on their way home after being contacted by investigators, the Record-Courier said.  Caleb Lishing’s slaying is the first homicide in Streetsboro in nearly 20 years.  “It doesn’t happen here,” Lt. Patricia Wain, a police department spokeswoman, told News 5. “It’s traumatizing. A lot of our officers here have kids that age, so to have to walk into that and see that and take that call, it’s very difficult.” A statement from Streetsboro City Schools administrators said that the school community was “shocked and saddened” by the death of Caleb Lishing, who was in the fifth grade.   “Caleb was a well-liked student by his peers and teachers, and (he) loved coming to school each day,” the statement said. “He was a gentle soul who loved to read and talk to the adults around him.” More than 20 grief counselors were on hand Tuesday to talk with students, faculty, staff members and parents about the loss. The counselors were also offering advice on how to recognize warning signs of potential trouble in children.  Children who are depressed may complain of feeling sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent or caregiver or worry excessively that a parent may die,” officials said on the district website. “Older children may sulk, get into trouble, be negative or grouchy or feel misunderstood. Youth are more likely to respond to treatment if they receive it early in the course of their illness.” Police officials asked for respect and kindness toward the family in a statement on the department’s Facebook page.  “We ask that you keep the family in your thoughts during this difficult time,” the police statement said. “While we respect that everyone may have strong feelings about the incident, we request that you keep your comments positive with respect to the family and our community as they grieve their loss.” Elijah Lishing was due in juvenile court for an initial appearance Wednesday afternoon. A judge issued a gag order in the case to protect the teen’s identity, but the ruling was handed down after police had already released his name and details of the case, the Record-Courier said. 

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