The Andrew Gillum wire fraud conspiracy case has ensnared more than one Tallahassee politico.
The second half of the pair indicted Wednesday on federal wire fraud charges is Sharon Lettman-Hicks, Gillum’s long-time campaign associate and a candidate for House District 8. Lettman-Hicks is part of a five-way Democratic Primary in the race to succeed outgoing Rep. Ramon Alexander.
Lettman-Hicks pleaded not guilty in the Northern District of Florida on Wednesday after the office of U.S. Attorney Jason Coody announced 20 charges against her. Gillum, Tallahassee’s former Mayor and the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee, pleaded not guilty to those and one other charge.
Both defendants face up to 20 years for each charge for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Gillum also faces up to 5 years for charges of making false statements to FBI agents.
Lettman-Hicks jumped into the HD 8 race this month after Alexander dropped his re-election bid after sexual harassment allegations surfaced against him. The Tallahassee lawmaker was expected to become the House Democratic Leader for the 2022-24 term.
Lettman-Hicks filed to run at the beginning of June and paid her $1,781.82 qualifying fee on Friday, the qualification deadline.
If Lettman-Hicks does not withdraw from the race or is not declared guilty by the time ballots print, likely next week, she will remain on the Aug. 23 Primary Election ballot.
In campaign documents, Hicks listed her net worth at the end of 2021 as $1.1 million. Lettman-Hicks has served as CEO of the Washington-based National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) since 2017. Together with Gillum, she also runs P&P Communications in Tallahassee.
HD 8 covers the entirety of Gadsden County and much of Tallahassee. The House Redistricting Committee this redistricting cycle considered the seat a minority access seat.
After the redistricting cycle, the district remains a solidly Democratic district, going for Gillum by 53 percentage points in 2018 and for Biden by 49 points in 2020.
The HD 8 Democratic Primary includes Tallahassee-based lawyer Hubert Brown, pharmacist and Florida A&M University professor Gallop Franklin, local pastor Gregory James and activist and Rep. Felicia Robinson legislative aide Marie Rattigan. One Republican, former Department of Business and Professional Regulation Assistant General Counsel Curt Bender, is also in the race.
The indictment accuses Gillum and Lettman-Hicks of an office space scam between 2016 and 2019. While Gillum was Mayor of Tallahassee, the indictment said he worked for another company pulling a $122,000 annual salary, and had that organization pay $3,000 a month in rent in a building owned by P&P Communications, which was run by him and Lettman-Hicks. That constitutes fraud, the indictment states. As soon as Gillum resigned from the company leasing space in order to run for Governor, it stopped using the space in the building he and Lettman-Hicks owned.
The indictment goes on to say Gillum and Lettman-Hicks defrauded other companies out of tens of thousands of dollars supposedly going toward the Campaign to Defend Local Solutions, an advocacy group to fight state preemption bills impacting local governments. At one point Lettman-Hicks’ National Black Justice Coalition served as fiscal sponsor for the campaign and accepted funds from outside groups.
Gillum in August 2016 sent one donor organization a proposed budget of about $250,000 for the campaign, but failed to disclose the money would go to P&P and that Gillum would profit. The group ultimately gave $100,000, and another group gave another $100,000 that was to pass through NBJC to fund the campaign. Lettman-Hicks ended up using money received to directly pay Gillum $50,000 in the form of P&P salary, but told donors the money was being set aside for reserves for the campaign, the indictment states.
Jacob Ogles and Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics contributed to this report.
Last updated on June 23, 2022