A Tennessee State Senator is being charged for allegedly embezzling $600,000 worth of federal funds to fund personal expenses including her wedding, honeymoon, and divorce fees as written in the criminal complaint.
Stealing federal funds
According to the New York Times, prosecutors announced the charges on Senator Katrina Robinson on Wednesday. The 39-year-old faces several counts of theft and embezzlement of government programs, and wire fraud.
The money the senator alleged stole was supposed to fund a nurse training program. The program was established at a vocational school that Robinson ran. Instead, the senator stole the money and added it to her salary, paid for business expenses, and used it for personal activities.
In addition to serving as a state senator, Democrat Robinson also holds the position of director of the Healthcare Institute. The institution is a for-profit college that offers training programs of certification for nursing-related efforts. Robinson is a registered nurse and established the school in 2015.
The criminal complaint writes that the Healthcare Institute founded by the senator was given more than $2.2 million in federal grants between 2015 and 2019 by the Health Resources and Services Administration which is part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
The administration awarded the grants to the institute under the condition that it would use it to provide training to develop nurse assistants who would care for geriatric patients and offer need-based scholarships.
However, in 2016, an anonymous complaint was sent to the Health and Human Services Department. The document claimed that Robinson used a small portion of the grant funds to purchase a Louis Vuitton handbag. The complaint prompted an investigation looking into the senator.
Results of the investigations
Researching bank records, investigators discovered evidence that Robinson had transferred $25,400 worth of funds as performance bonus and increased her usual salary. The senator also placed $54,000 into a retirement fund as written in charging documents.
Over four years, the senator paid herself $169,134 more than her allotted salary. The complaint against Robinson detailed the evidence that supported the charges. She will also be indicted if the federal grand jury deems it necessary, as reported by AP News.
Spokesman Joel Siscovic said that in February, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents visited Robinson's home and once more on Tuesday. If convicted, the senator faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
During a news conference, Janika White, Robinson's attorney, said that federal prosecutors were incorrectly charging the senator using a statute which she claimed was broad and overreaching, stating her client would be vindicated.
According to ABC News, White called her client a helping individual who traveled outside of the state to help treat and take care of patients who are suffering due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, the Tennessee senator announced she would continue to serve her district with the same integrity and passion that she has demonstrated since she was placed in her position as a state senator.