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Federal law enforcement agents have arrested a Tennessee state Democrat on dozens of counts of defrauding taxpayers, alleging she stole in excess of $600,000 stemming from a multi-million dollar federal grant.
FBI agents arrested State Senator Katrina Robinson, 39, on 48 counts of “theft and embezzlement involving government programs and wire fraud,” according to a Justice Department press release.
Robinson was charged in connection with a criminal complaint that was unsealed on Wednesday. The following day, a federal grand jury returned a 48-count indictment involving embezzlement and outright theft of funds involving government programs.
The indictment includes 24 counts of wire fraud, according to U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant.
The charging statement notes that Robinson is the director of The Healthcare Institute (THI), which provides training and jobs in the field of healthcare. In addition, she is a serving state senator, having been elected to represent the 33rd district in Shelby County in 2018.
The Justice Department noted:
Between 2015 and 2019, The Healthcare Institute received over $2.2 million in federal grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. During that same time period, Robinson stole in excess of $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.
Robinson allegedly used the stolen funds to buy a vehicle for her daughter, purchase clothing, buy hair and beauty products, finance a wedding and honeymoon as well as legal fees for a divorce.
The money also allegedly went to pay personal debts including credit and store charge cards, student and personal loans, travel and entertainment for herself and family members, improvements to her home, and “expenses related to a body aesthetics business she owned and a snow cone business operated by her children,” the DoJ said.
She also allegedly spent some of the funds on a Senate campaign event.
If convicted, Robinson faces up to 20 years in prison along with three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. At present, there is no parole in the federal penal system.
“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. We commend the FBI and the HHS-OIG for their diligent and thorough investigation in this case,” Dunavant said.
”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,” added Acting Special Agent in Charge Jermicha L. Fomby of the Memphis Field Office of the FBI.
“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,” Fomby added.
The FBI investigated Robinson along with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General.
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