A Democratic state senator in Tennessee has been charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funds in order to pay for a wedding and other personal expenses.
Federal prosecutors on Wednesday announced charges against Tennessee state Sen. Katrina Robinson, accusing her of stealing money from a company she directed over a period of four years.
WHBQ-TV in Memphis reported that from 2015 to 2019, according to a complaint, Robinson took in excess of $600,000 from the Healthcare Institute, which provides health care vocational training.
Robinson’s institute received $2.2 million in federal grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration during that time.
The Justice Department said Robinson stole nearly a quarter of it.
The state senator, according to federal authorities, used the stolen money for herself and her family.
In addition to paying for her wedding, Robinson allegedly also paid for her honeymoon and subsequent divorce with funds that were allegedly embezzled from the Healthcare Institute.
She is further accused of using the money to buy a snow-cone shack, pay off personal loans and fund improvements to her home.
The senator also allegedly paid for a campaign event with embezzled federal funds.
Robinson is charged with theft, embezzlement and wire fraud.
If convicted, she could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“Anyone who seeks to take advantage of government programs will be vigorously investigated by the FBI, regardless of who they are or any position they hold,” acting Special Agent in Charge Jermicha L. Fomby with the FBI said in a news release.
“The public should know that the FBI will continue to work diligently with our law enforcement partners to identify and investigate those who seek to exploit government programs and line their own pockets,” Fomby added.
An attorney for the embattled lawmaker said she is innocent.
“Senator Robinson has a story to tell. She’s eager to tell that story. We believe once all the facts come out and her story is told, she will be vindicated,” attorney Kamilah White said, according to WHBQ.
Robinson represents Tennessee’s 33rd District, which includes the city of Memphis.
She will not resign amid the charges and has the full backing of the state’s Democrats.
The Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus issued a statement saying Robinson’s work in the legislature is “not in question” and she “deserves the presumption of innocence and due process.”
Not only will Robinson not step down, but she is running for re-election.
“If I did not champion the voices, the views and faces that I represent then I would not be in this moment right now,” Robinson said, according to WHBQ.
“If you support me, keep supporting me,” she added. “If you stand with me, keep standing with me.”
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