Sharon Lettman-Hicks drops from HD 8 race after fraud charges in Andrew Gillum case
Sharon Lettman-Hicks is another casualty of Andrew Gillum's downfall. Image via campaign.

Sharon Lettman-Hicks
‘I am devastated by these baseless charges, and I have made the painful decision to suspend my campaign.’

Sharon Lettman-Hicks has dropped out of the race to replace Rep. Ramon Alexander in House District 8 after being charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud together with former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Lettman-Hicks, the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee’s longtime campaign associate, was part of a five-way Democratic Primary in the race to succeed Alexander until dropping out Thursday. Lettman-Hicks pleaded not guilty on Wednesday after the office of U.S. Attorney Jason Coody announced 20 charges against her. Gillum 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.

“I am devastated by these baseless charges, and I have made the painful decision to suspend my campaign,” Lettman-Hicks said in a statement. “I must now focus on fighting for my continued freedom. I want to thank the many District 8 residents who stepped forward early to volunteer and support my campaign. I have not forgotten the people of this community nor the issues we face.”

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 said she entered the race in the hopes of giving a voice to the underrepresented and to challenge the status quo.

She filed to run at the beginning of June and paid her $1,781.82 qualifying fee on Friday, the qualification deadline. But because she withdrew from the race before ballots print, she is expected to not be on the Aug. 23 Primary Election ballot.

“Less than seven days later, I was handcuffed at the Tallahassee FBI office, driven to the federal courthouse with three agents, fingerprinted by U.S. Marshals, and paraded into a federal courthouse to have all my dignity challenged while being indicted on 20 counts from a nearly four-year-old politically motivated investigation,” Lettman-Hicks said. “I find it stunning that these charges have come to light just days after I became a viable candidate, yet this is the America that so many, whom I had hoped to represent, deal with day in and day out in their communities.”

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 is now down to 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 in the Northern District of Florida 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.

Additionally, 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.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


4 comments

  • tom palmer

    June 23, 2022 at 11:12 pm

    As they used to write in Esquire’ s snarky review of the year’s events. Why is that person smiling?

    Reply

  • It’s Complicated

    June 24, 2022 at 12:18 am

    Ripping off billionaires, irrespective of their party affiliation, generally leads to a pursuit of justice.

    Reply

  • Domino

    June 24, 2022 at 1:34 pm

    How long before she flips on Andrew?

    Reply

  • Just a comment

    June 24, 2022 at 2:14 pm

    Did they get a mugshot or just charged. either way it makes some of us look good

    Reply

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