Politics

Andrew Gillum, former Tallahassee mayor and Democratic nominee for Florida governor indicted on federal charges of wire fraud, false statements to FBI

Washington – Former Tallahassee mayor and 2018 Democratic nominee for Florida Governor Andrew Gillum was indicted on 21 counts, including conspiracy, wire fraud and making false statements to investigators. 

According to the federal indictment unsealed Wednesday in the Northern District of Florida, Gillum and his associate-turned-co-defendant, communications executive Sharon Lettman-Hicks, allegedly solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign and other funds and then diverted portions of the funds for their personal use and gain. 

The duo is accused of teaming up to take funds largely paid to Lettman-Hick’s communications firm from Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign and other political contributions.  

Charging documents say that when Gillum announced his candidacy for governor in 2017, he resigned from a position at an organization that paid him a salary of over $100,000 a year. To compensate for that loss, Lettman-Hicks allegedly listed Gillum as an employee and later as an “independent contractor” at her firm as an alleged “cover” to provide Gillum with a revenue stream. 

The indictment alleges that on numerous occasions between 2016 and 2019, Gillum and his associate also used their work with local organizations and political coalitions to raise money and then divert the funds to accounts that they managed. 

In 2018, prosecutors say Gillum solicited a donation of $250,000 for his gubernatorial campaign from an unnamed individual under the guise that all of the money would be used to bolster Gillum’s political ambitions through a political action committee. He and Lettman-Hicks allegedly diverted $132,000 of that donation for their personal use and disguised the influx of cash as a service rendered by Lettmann-Hicks’ communications firm. Only $100,000 of the intended donation actually funded Gillum’s political action committee, according to investigators. 

Investigators allege that in another instance, just prior to the 2018 election in which Gillum was a candidate for governor, he and Lettman-Hicks again diverted funds intended to advance his candidacy, this time from a tranche of money that was supposed to be used for a “Get Out the Vote” campaign. 

After Gillum lost the 2018 election, the indictment accuses him of putting Lettman-Hicks in charge of $130,000 in the “Get Out the Vote” money, and together, they allegedly moved $60,000 to an account that belonged to the communications firm. The pair claimed that the money was for expenses incurred during the campaign, but in fact, they allegedly used it for their own personal benefit, including six alleged payments of $5,000 made directly to Gillum marked as “End of year Bonus.” 

Prosecutors say the federal probe into Gillum’s actions began in 2015 as public corruption investigation into the city of Tallahassee, Florida, that eventually included Gillum’s actions as the city’s mayor. 

According to the indictment, beginning in 2016, Gillum allegedly solicited political contributions and gifts from an undercover FBI agent posing as a Florida developer who wanted approval for various projects in Tallahassee. Gillum is accused of accepting a hotel room, dinners, and even a ticket to the Broadway show “Hamilton” that was paid by the undercover agent’s development company and then lying about his relationship with the company when questioned by FBI investigators. Lying to investigators is a federal crime. 

In a statement, Gillum called the case “political” and said that “there’s been a target on my back ever since I was the mayor of Tallahassee.”

“Every campaign I’ve run has been done with integrity,” he wrote in a statement.
They found nothing then, and I have full confidence that my legal team will prove my innocence now.”

Attorneys for Gillum, Democratic lawyer Marc Elias and David Oscar Markus, said “the government got it wrong today.”

“The evidence in this case is clear and will show that Mr. Gillum is innocent of all charges. We look forward to putting this case to rest and giving Andrew and his family peace of mind once and for all,” he said. 

Gillum, who was also a city commissioner in Tallahassee, was seen as a rising star in the party that leaned more progressive during his term as mayor. He was the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor in Florida and lost to Republican Governor Ron DeSantis by about 1 point, just under 33,000 votes. 

In March 2020, Gillum checked into rehab to treat his alcoholism after police officers found him “inebriated” in a South Beach hotel with a man who had been taking crystal methamphetamine. 


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