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Posted: May 01, 2017

Staffer: Now-former Rep. Corrine Brown directed “charity” checks be funneled through business


By Stephanie Brown

Jacksonville, FL —

New testimony is linking now-former Congresswoman Corrine Brown to some of the questionable expenses from an alleged “sham” charity.

Consultant Von Alexander, who was a part-time staffer for Brown’s Jacksonville office for some 15 years, was involved in cashing checks and depositing money in the accounts of both Brown and Brown’s daughter Shantrel Brown. Alexander says she was never in a position to question Brown’s direction on how the checks were being handled.

Prosecutors walked her through numerous transactions, where Alexander’s company- The Alexander Agency- would get a check from One Door For Education or from Friends of Corrine Brown. One Door is the group that was being represented by Brown and two others as a charity, with prosecutors saying they were soliciting money to use for their own personal expenses instead. After depositing the One Door or FOCB check, Alexander would then write a check from her business to “cash”, and then deposit the cash in to the accounts of Corrine and Shantrel Brown. She says Brown always directed her how to fill out the checks and how to handle the subsequent deposits.

Alexander says Brown told her the transactions related to reimbursements she was seeking for various expenses she had fronted out of pocket. Alexander says she would follow up with Brown’s Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons to get paperwork to verify that these transactions were valid reimbursements, and while Simmons would tell Alexander he had the paperwork, it was “rarely” ultimately given to Alexander.

Additionally, the memo lines on the checks generally didn’t match as the transactions worked their way through these various steps. One example is a $10,000 check from a surgical center with “printing” in the memo line. The donor behind this says Brown asked for money for a commemorative edition of a magazine about her, but Brown told him to leave the “pay to” line blank. Alexander says Simmons ultimately made the check payable to The Alexander Agency in this case, and the check was sent to her to be disbursed to Brown and her daughter over the course of a few days. Although the initial check indicated the money was for printing, the subsequent check from The Alexander Agency to “cash” had things like “canvassing” in the memo lines.

Alexander says she always filled out the memo lines- including in this case- at the direction of Brown. None of the memo lines said reimbursement.

FULL COVERAGE: Federal fraud trial of now-former Rep. Corrine Brown

Alexander says most of the checks were actually signed by Simmons, forging the names of either Carla Wiley, the President of One Door, or Gloria Simmons, who was with Friends of Corrine Brown. Alexander says she never questioned that because it had been “protocol” since she worked in the office.

In her experience, Alexander says it would be unusual to handle reimbursements in this manner, but she didn’t question Brown.

The main issue raised by Brown’s defense, James Smith III, was whether Alexander’s memory could be trusted. Prosecutors had her talk about a surgery to remove a brain tumor, which left her with some memory challenges. Alexander says, through rehab, she learned how to work around those challenges, and was comfortable with what she was saying based on her recollection and documents she reviewed. 

Smith also questioned Alexander’s own financial position. As part of the string of transactions that stemmed from the surgical center check, Alexander told the court she had asked Brown for a couple of hundred dollars. Alexander says Brown would always help her when she could.

There was one check which was cashed with the help of another party, who also testified Monday.

Alexander says she reached out to Siottis Jackson in September 2015 because she had to go out of town, but Brown needed a check handled. Alexander made a check from her business to Jackson for $2200, with healthcare initiative in the memo line. Alexander says she wrote the check for $2200, because those were the funds available.

Jackson had been working with Brown since mid-2015, when he says Brown noticed him for a Jacksonville City Council campaign he was involved in. He did some research work for Brown, and was ultimately paid for that work through FOCB.

He says he picked up the check, deposited it, and then withdrew the cash to deposit the money in Brown’s account. He says he wasn’t nervous about depositing the money, because he trusted Brown.

Alexander says she has never been paid back by Brown for the $2200 the check took from her business.

WOKV is inside of the federal courthouse through the trial. Get frequent updates by following our reporter Stephanie Brown on Twitter.

Former staffer to Congresswoman Corrine Brown and the President of an alleged "sham" charity both provide big testimony to kick off the second week of Brown's federal fraud trial.

Posted by News 104.5 WOKV on Monday, May 1, 2017

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