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Carla Wiley ‘One Door’ sentencing moved to Judge Timothy Corrigan

Federal Judge Timothy Corrigan is expected to sentence Corrine Brown later this summer on 18 counts related to a fraudulent educational charity, “One Door for Education.”

Brown is not the only One Door participant that will be sentenced by Corrigan, as Carla Wiley — the CEO of the charity — will also be sentenced by Corrigan,

Wiley’s sentence is contingent on cooperation with the federal prosecutors, and she provided it in her testimony in the Corrine Brown trial.

Judge Marcia Morales Howard noted in her order that since Corrigan tried the Brown case, it “appears these cases should be in front of the same judge.”

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Carla Wiley, the head of the One Door for Education charity, took the stand in one of the most anticipated testimonies of the trial.

Wiley had pleaded out already.

What was a mystery – how Brown’s machine took over a previously below-the-radar charity.

Part of it came down to love. Part of it came down to circumstance.

And all of it, said Wiley, amounted to fraud.

Wiley, who dated Brown’s chief-of-staff and former co-defendant, Ronnie Simmons, outlined something key to the prosecution case: a narrative that Brown had a key role in orchestrating the scheme, even though emails and surveillance video show that Simmons did most of the withdrawals from One Door and transfers to Brown’s accounts, along with cash withdrawals.

Wiley’s charity and consulting business served as a pass-through for One Door donations, which went to lavish travel for herself and Simmons.

When asked if she engaged in “fraud” for One Door, Wiley said yes – and that Brown and Simmons did also.

Brown and Simmons were the rainmakers, raising all but “two or three thousand dollars” of the $800,000 brought in, she said.

And, through all that time, she knew of one scholarship for One Door.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars came in, said Wiley, who owned up to wire fraud and profiting off of the charity.

The charity had closed its original bank account, with some thought of finding a different way of helping children, before on-again/off-again boyfriend Simmons convinced Wiley to let her non-profit host a reception for Brown in Sept. 2012.

Wiley offered the charity for that use. And she gave Simmons the debit cards and checks, trusting him to “manage it correctly.”

“I thought it would be a good way to help, get a lot of exposure,” Wiley said, with her access to her mother’s scholarship fund restricted to online only.

“As he would write checks, he would sign my name,” Wiley said regarding Simmons.

Wiley and Simmons would discuss the account balance, via email and text. Brown was out of the loop on these discussions, Wiley said.

Wiley stopped soliciting donations herself; the machine was run by Simmons within months after the arrangement was struck, even though donations would sometimes be FedEx’d to the office of Wiley’s former employer.

Money for car payments and other expenses, for Wiley and her family, coursed from the One Door account also, the witness said.

Wiley was schmoozing donors at certain events … and deciding to spend money raised: $140,000 total, she claimed on the stand. The money, extracted over three years, “came out pretty frequent,” Wiley said.

When asked about her biggest withdrawal, Wiley couldn’t recall.

Meanwhile, even with Wiley’s mother’s name on the charity and Wiley as the president, the charity was essentially Simmons’ machine to run and deploy, including sending out fundraising pitch letters to money marks, with forged signatures a specialty of his.

By May 2015, tension had become notable, with Wiley bringing up the “trouble” in an email to Simmons, noting the money came in but wasn’t going out for charitable purposes. In that email, Wiley asserted that the treasurer had expressed concerns; that was a lie, but the real story was Wiley’s own concerns about the charity having become a scam.

Details – such as the lapsed 501(3)c status of One Door – went undisclosed to Brown, Wiley said.

Meanwhile, lavish romantic trips with Simmons and Wiley, by and large, were also outside the purview of Brown – though Wiley didn’t know One Door was funding the trips, she said.

Wiley said nothing to Brown or Simmons, and didn’t know they were working the same scam.

Lori Boyer talks Jax Council President race

At the end of June, Jacksonville City Council President Lori Boyer will pass the gavel to one of two people running to replace her.

The city will have accomplished two major things on her watch: expansion of the city’s Human Rights Ordinance and comprehensive pension reform.

Yet there is one more significant hurdle to clear: the election between Anna Brosche and John Crescimbeni on Tuesday.

Ahead of that vote, there have been arguable irregularities: among them, a group of council members voting in a “pack,” which could swing the election toward Brosche; and a breakfast meeting between Brosche, two other supporters, and some others that also raised the hackles of some council members on the other side.

Boyer, whose own election to the Presidency was uncontested, didn’t face this kind of action last year. And now, in one of her last acts as Council President, she sits in the President’s Chair as months of drama and intrigue are distilled into a 19-person vote.

“I really believe that both of them would do a fine job as Council President … that either one of them could execute the job well on behalf of the entire city council,” Boyer said.

“Typically,” Boyer added, “at this time the President’s race has become clear.”

This year, however, it’s not. When we pointed out that the tally could be 9-9, with Boyer having to decide, she said that “would be interesting.”

However, Boyer noted, that if the block of four council members holds up and coalesces behind Brosche, as seems to be the case, “that tips the scale.”

Boyer, when asked about a potential “optics issue” regarding Brosche meeting with supporters days before the vote, had this to say.

“It’s probably not good optics,” Boyer said. “But it may be that there was nothing discussed that was a problem.”

That said, Boyer noted that a role of council members is to “preserve the image” of the City Council.

“From an image perspective, the timing could have been better,” Boyer said. “But we are allowed to talk to one another,” she added, about personal matters that have nothing to do with Council business.

“You’re not allowed to talk about something like ‘the race’,” Boyer added.

That is pertinent, especially now, as Jacksonville Ethics Officer Carla Miller sent out an email reminding Council members that the Sunshine Law does exist and in fact applies to these matters.

Rick Scott highlights Enterprise Florida success story in Jacksonville

Monday saw Florida Gov. Rick Scott on yet another trip to Jacksonville, where he highlighted job growth at a medical technology company.

That company — Sunoptic Technologies — has benefited from one of Scott’s key initiatives, Enterprise Florida, which in addition to offering economic incentives also provided a global stage for the mid-sized company over the years, via showcasing it and other companies globally at events like MEDICA, a German trade show for the industry.

“In early 2013, Sunoptic Technologies signed a new exclusive distributor to serve the Japanese market. We chose to participate in the Florida Pavilion at MEDICA because the exposure we will get will help us create new international clients like our Japanese distributor. Thanks to Enterprise Florida, Sunoptic Technologies can focus on our customers and products and work on expanding internationally,” said David Mutch, Director of Sunoptic Technologies, in 2013.

Mutch enthused again about EFI in 2016, as his company readied for another German junket: ““Enterprise Florida’s participation at MEDICA is a key component of our marketing plan … As a small business, it would be very difficult to participate on our own. We would never be able to present ourselves in a positive, professional way. The services provided also enable us to have a larger presence.”

Rick Scott’s strategy — jobs, jobs, jobs — sounds simple. And incentives are often poorly understood by media and politicians. But in the case of Sunoptic, an Enterprise Florida success story, Scott clearly believes the story is worth telling.

And tell it he did.

Sunoptic is a company that has seen its revenue quadruple during the Enterprise Florida era, with 75 employees and 10 percent year over year revenue growth.

Gov. Scott attributed this to a number of factors, including Enterprise Florida trade shows and an environment in Jacksonville, facilitated by the Mayor and the City Council, that just “gets things done.”

After inserting what is now a familiar riposte against “politicians in Tallahassee that turned back” Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. Scott passed the mike to Mayor Lenny Curry, who had his own thoughts on the city’s wave of economic success.

Curry noted that “the recipe in Jacksonville” is “just right” for business expansion and relocation.

Council President Lori Boyer — in whose district the company operates — lauded Scott for being “singularly focused” on jobs, noting that Jacksonville’s strong economic metrics (4 percent unemployment; 3.7 percent job growth in 2016) provide evidence that the Rick Scott approach works.

“That’s a legacy,” Boyer said about the numbers.

Scott noted in his post-event comments that, despite a record of strong economic performance, the state’s economic motor is beginning to sputter.

“If your growth rate in something slowed down, that would concern you. That’s happening in our state,” Scott said.

“If you look at our overall job growth numbers,” Scott said, and compare them to a year ago, “they’re not as fast as they used to be.

The same is true for construction and hospitality.

Scott attributed that, again, to “politicians in Tallahassee turning their back on Enterprise Florida.”

Unnoticed meeting of Jax Councilors, including Presidential candidate, draws notice

On the eve of a vote for the next Jacksonville City Council President, a reliable source notes that three councilors — including one candidate for President — had breakfast together Saturday at a Metro Diner location.

Councilwoman Anna Brosche and Councilmen Matt Schellenberg and Doyle Carter (two committed Brosche backers) were among the participants in a group breakfast, and there are allegations that in addition to what was on the menu, the race for Council President may have come up.

Specifically, a source on hand says the council members “celebrated Katrina email” — a reference to Councilwoman Katrina Brown, who emailed a pledge of support for Brosche over John Crescimbeni late last week.

Councilwoman Brosche — the frontrunner in the pledge count — describes the event as a “large group breakfast.”

“I did not discuss the president’s race, or any other Council business, with either of my colleagues,” Brosche said Monday morning.

When asked about the specific charge of “celebrating” Brown’s email, Brosche noted that councilors “get invited to, and attend, many events, both formal and informal” and that she was “not privy to all the conversation given the size of the group” at this “standing breakfast.”

Schellenberg described the event as a “standing breakfast every Saturday that you are not invited to … a joyful breakfast with friends … a place where we can just have fun and enjoy each other’s company.”

Schellenberg contends the President’s race was not discussed, however, beyond answering a “purely factual question.”

“Someone might have asked if Katrina Brown pledged … someone said Katrina and Garrett Dennis pledged,” Schellenberg said, adding that it was not a “sunshine violation” to answer a “pure factual question.”

We reached out to  Carter and Crescimbeni for their takes, but have yet to hear back.

As the hours wind down before the vote (3:00 p.m. on Tuesday), indications are that “pack voting,” as described by another Brosche supporter, could prove dispositive.

Councilman Reggie Brown asserted Monday that Brosche may have 10 votes locked up … with Reggie Gaffney, Katrina Brown, Garrett Dennis, and Councilman Brown himself providing the decisive margin.

“Our plan was to run as a pack…I gave up having direct participation with this process due to its biases.  I wish both candidates well; however, our decision to vote as a pack must be adhered or the value of the pack is useless,” Brown told us Monday morning.

“The strength is in the pack. All I have is my word,” Brown added.

The bid of Brosche’s opponent, current VP John Crescimbeni, was buoyed originally by a “pack.” But as one would expect on a cliquish City Council, other packs are having their say as well.

Sometimes in the sunshine.

And sometimes in the shade.

For Councilman Bill Gulliford, a Crescimbeni supporter who had said previously he would not serve on a standing committee in a Brosche administration, the narrative of a sub rosa meeting where council business may have been discussed is disquieting.

“If that indeed is the case,” Gulliford said, “it’s a good indication of why you don’t have inexperienced people in leadership.”

As well, Gulliford said that the appearance of potential impropriety showed a lack of “good discretion” on Brosche’s part, especially in a climate where votes are swayed by mechanisms ranging from “pack voting to you name it.”

Jax Council VP race hinges on unknowns on eve of vote

Though the lion’s share of attention in Tuesday’s leadership races in the Jacksonville City Council has focused on the race for the Presidency between Anna Brosche and John Crescimbeni, the race for the Vice-Presidency is also wide-open … and poised for a Tuesday afternoon decision.

One candidate, Scott Wilson, has two pledges outside of himself: current VP John Crescimbeni and Bill Gulliford.

Wilson’s opponent, Aaron Bowman, has six committed supporters including himself: Jim LoveMatt SchellenbergDoyle CarterSam Newby, and Brosche.

With just nine people out of the 19 person body committed to one candidate or another, there are lots of variables in the mix.

One thing certain as of Monday morning: Wilson intends to stay in the contest.

As he told us outside of Jacksonville City Hall, he still could win the election.

The VP race has been overshadowed by a race for the top job that has proven to be more competitive than Crescimbeni’s early supporters, a cadre of old guard males, wanted.

Yet it is clearly in play. Wilson could win it. Bowman could win it. Or another candidate could be nominated for the role on Tuesday afternoon, potentially forcing multiple votes before a resolution.

It is theoretically possible, for example, that “pack voting” could lead to a floor nomination of a VP hopeful who might start off the discussion with four votes in his or her pocket.

Fans of esoteric infighting and personality clashes, as well as those with an interest in who actually calls the shots in Jacksonville’s City Council, will want to be on hand in Council Chambers at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

New officers take the helm July 1, 2017.

Conflict of interest clouds renaming of Corrine Brown regional transportation center

What is to be done when a city names a facility after a convicted former member of Congress? In the case of Gainesville and the Corrine Brown Regional Transit Facility, the answer — thus far — has been to do nothing.

The Associated Press reported that the Gainesville City Commission opted to defer action last week on the move.

That deferral gives the appearance of prudence and thoughtfulness, while offering an opportunity for a closer look at how the Congresswoman built relationships in Gainesville via what could be called “transactional money.”

One Gainesville City Commissioner has asserted he has no “conflict of interest” when it comes to a vote to rename the Corrine Brown Regional Transportation Center. However, there are 2,539 reasons to think otherwise.

Specifically: $2,539 spent between 2013 and 2015 by “Friends of Corrine Brown” at a clothing store owned by the wife of Gainesville City Commissioner Harvey Budd. The money supposedly was spent on clothes for Florida Gators football games; however, a number of the purchase dates were outside of Gator football season.

Gainesville City Commissioner Budd signed a Personal Guarantee on the lease for the business. Budd is also the treasurer, director, and VP of the company that collected thousands of dollars from Brown’s political donors, via the pass-through of her campaign account.

Budd has asserted that he has no conflict of interest in a potential vote on the renaming of the regional transportation center, despite a demonstrated pattern of “campaign materials” and “gifts for supporters” being bought by Corrine Brown from Ilene’s for Fashion.

Among notable items sold at Ilene’s for Fashion: Gators’ gear made from Swarovski crystals (an interesting campaign material) and other designer items that would seem to be high-markup gear with little to do with GOTV efforts and the like.

As Brown’s trial in Jacksonville showed, the Congresswoman liked to spend money at high-end stores. Though Gainesville transactions did not factor into testimony, what was clear was that she spent money in Gator Country, just as she did everywhere else.

Despite conviction, uncertainty swirls around Corrine Brown’s fate

The trial of former U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown wrapped earlier this month, with Brown going down on 18 counts.

Does that mean this all is a wrap, however? No.

Much of the reporting in the last week in the Jacksonville media brought forth ephemera from the case. That ephemera, ranging from accounts from jurors to stories from a witness not called to the stand, and Brown’s own testimony, suggests the grounds for a motion for a new trial – something Brown’s attorney suggested was happening minutes after the 18 guilty verdicts.

Worth noting: Brown, at least through the appeals process, will continue to draw her Congressional Pension, as Action News Jax’s Jenna Bourne reported last week.

“Final conviction,” after appeals have been exhausted, would be the necessary prerequisite for pension forfeiture.

In other words, this is still a live case.

And making it even more live – testimony from jurors, which suggests the jury process was not on the up and up.

News4Jax has reported that two jurors were “holdouts” against convicting Brown; one of those jurors, who asserted that the “holy spirit” gave him the 411, was discharged – and the other stayed on the jury, caved in to consensus, and then had second thoughts.

“At one point, Corrine was going to walk, and at another point, she is convicted of 18 counts, and that is all because of one person’s doing,” the juror said. “No, I don’t think that’s fair.”

Brown’s lawyer wants to interview the juror before a new trial motion.

Brown, for her part, has asserted that the trial was a “witch hunt” and that she had “serious concerns” about the jury and the criminal justice system, per the Florida Times-Union.

Meanwhile, one prosecution witness who ended up not being used also expressed concerns to Florida Politics last week.

Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney’s theory: his narrative was inconsistent with the story the federal prosecutors wanted to tell … which is something they finally realized after two meetings with Gaffney, whose “Community Rehabilitation Center” and “CRC Transportation” were discussed at length during the trial.

Gaffney said his testimony was “consistent,” suggesting “that’s why they didn’t use me.”

Gaffney, whose for-profit CRC Transportation gave Brown money, described it as a “gift” to a friend — and said it was used for charitable purposes.

“I knew she was doing the right thing with my money,” Gaffney said. “I knew she was doing the right thing for the community … some of your constituents need things. I gave money as a friend.”

Gaffney didn’t think twice about giving Brown money years ago. He saw it as a way to “help the community.”

Gaffney also contended that, contrary to the assertions of those from other Jacksonville non-profits, Brown actually gave to his non-profit CRC during the period being investigated.

“Staff saw her bring stuff,” Gaffney said, and sometimes Brown would call CRC for a pick-up.

Was Gaffney scratched from the prosecution witness list because his narrative was inconsistent with the prosecution argument? Because his story would have added a wrinkle of nuance to a prosecution narrative that, by and large, went substantively unchallenged in cross-examination?

While we aren’t privy to motions to come this week or next, expect that perceived irregularities from May’s trial will drive the Corrine Brown narrative as the summer heats up.

And after Corrine Brown? The race to become the next Corrine Brown.

Word in the halls is that former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown is waiting until Queen Corrine is out of the headlines before launching his Congressional bid.

Other Jacksonville Democrats — the kind who see Mayor Next Level as a 1000-watt smile and not much else — also mull their options.

The longer this goes, the more their window closes.

From sauce to loss: Jax Councilor’s parents serve up double helping of Chapter 11

In an illustration of what happens when economic incentives go wrong, the parents of Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown jointly and separately filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy this week.

This filing by Jerome Brown and JoAnn Brown staved off a foreclosure hearing that was slated for a Jacksonville court on Monday, with BizCapital — the primary lendor and guarantor of a Small Business Loan — as the plaintiffs against the Browns and their businesses.

Back in 2011, the Browns, via “CoWealth” (one of their shell companies), got city of Jacksonville grants and loans and a Small Business Administration loan to establish a barbeque sauce plant in Northwest Jacksonville.

The money was contingent on the Browns creating at least 56 permanent jobs.

They fell just 56 jobs short of that number.

CoWealth originally borrowed $2.65 million from Biz Capital, in addition to $380,000 from the city of Jacksonville and $220,000 of grants, for the sauce plant. The city’s interest is subordinate to that of Biz Capital.

The Browns estimate that they have $500,001-$1M in assets, and $1,000,001-$10M in debts, according to the filing.

The Browns have dealt with unusual scrutiny, including an FBI raid on the warehouse in 2016.

Insulated from action by the Browns’ individual Chapter 11 filings, and Chapter 11s on their businesses: Councilwoman Brown herself, who was quietly removed from corporation paperwork as the legal maneuvering got serious months back.

Al Lawson files Entrepreneurial Education Act

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson filed his first bill Friday, and it aims to help economic conditions in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

The Entrepreneurial Education Act would authorize what is being called an “Entrepreneurial Education Initiative” through the Small Business Administration.

The initiative’s goal: to train and guide those running businesses in what Lawson’s press release calls “economically-disadvantaged communities.”

“This bill will help generate new jobs, attract investment, and provide necessary training to our emerging leaders in Florida’s fifth district and around the country so that we can grow our economy where we need it most,” said Lawson, a North Florida Democrat whose district runs east from Tallahassee toward Jacksonville.

“This program has already helped more than 4,000 small business owners in sustaining and growing their businesses and I know we can make that number even bigger by helping more people across the country,” Lawson added.

New York Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez, the ranking member of the House Small Business Committee, offered a statement of support for Lawson’s bill, which will be heard in her committee.

Ron DeSantis condemns Turkish violence in D.C., Turkish president

Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis Friday condemned the security forces of Turkish President Recep Erdogan for attacking protesters in Washington D.C. and also condemned Erdogan.

DeSantis, of Ponte Vedre Beach, chairs the House Subcommittee on National Security. His First Coast district includes Volusia County.

In a news release issued Friday morning, DeSantis did not address how he feels about President Donald Trump inviting Erdogan to the White house earlier this week, but he expressed nothing but contempt for the Turkish leader.

DeSantis also expressed outrage over the attacks that happened outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence on Tuesday, documented in videos. He said Erdogan must be held accountable.

He called Erdogan’s security detail “a goon squad.”

The New York Times is reporting today that new videos show that Erdogan was in a car. An aide spoke to someone in the car, then spoke to another aide, who went off to the group of Turkish security forces. The Turkish security forces then charged the protesters, attacking them. Nine protesters were injured requiring hospital treatment.

“It’s bad enough Turkish President Recep Erdogan refuses to recognize freedom of speech and religion at home and has suppressed political opposition to his rule. It’s worse that he stands at the nexus of support for nefarious jihadist groups,” DeSantis stated in the release.

“That his security detail has now engaged in such behavior on our own soil against American protesters is unconscionable. The Erdogan government must be held to account immediately and apologize for their anti-democratic violence,” DeSantis continued.

“The men responsible for this brutality should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. At the very least, this goon squad should be declared persona non grata and removed from the country forever. Nobody is immune to violations of the laws of our land when it involves mass violence against our people,” he added.

“Mr. Erdogan must be reminded that he cannot stomp on the rights of the citizens of the United States. This is the land of the free and the home of the brave, not an Islamist tyranny.”

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