A Tennessee Democrat state senator was charged this week for allegedly stealing more than $600,000 in federal money that she allegedly used to pay for personal expenses, including her political campaign, wedding, honeymoon, and eventual divorce.
“Tennessee State Senator Katrina Robinson, 39, has been federally charged with theft and embezzlement involving government programs and wire fraud,” the Department of Justice announced. “According to the information presented in the complaint, Katrina Robinson is the Director of The Healthcare Institute (THI), a provider of educational and training programs for jobs in the healthcare field. She is also a Tennessee State Senator, having been elected to represent the 33rd District in Shelby County in 2018.”
The DOJ says that THI received more than $2 million in federal grants between 2015 and 2019 from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and that Robinson stole over $600,000 from THI by “compensating herself in excess of what was allowed under the terms of the HRSA grant and by using Institute funds for payments and purchases for her own personal benefit and that of her immediate family.”
The DOJ’s statement outlined things that Robinson allegedly paid for with the stolen money:
Payments and purchases included a vehicle for her daughter; clothing, accessories, and hair and beauty products; expenses related to her wedding and honeymoon, and later, legal fees for her divorce; payments on her personal debts, including credit cards, store charge cards, student loans, and other personal loans; travel and entertainment for herself and her family; improvements to her personal residence; expenses related to a body aesthetics business she owned and a snow cone business operated by her children; and an event for her State Senate campaign.
“Protection of the United States Treasury and federal grant programs against theft, fraud, waste, and abuse is a top priority of this office and the Department of Justice,” U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant said in announcing the charges. “We commend the FBI and the HHS-OIG for their diligent and thorough investigation in this case.”
“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 of the Memphis Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation added. “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.”
The case is expected to be presented to a grand jury and, if convicted, Robinson faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
The Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus defended Robinson in a statement, saying, “Senator Robinson’s work in the state legislature on behalf of her constituents is not in question here today.”
“Just like every other American, Senator Robinson deserves the presumption of innocence and due process under the law,” the statement continued, according to The New York Times. “Her case should be resolved by a court of law, not by the court of public opinion.”
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