department of justice

New charges filed against Democratic Sen. Robinson

The Tennessee Senate meets on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

New charges have been filed against state Sen. Katrina Robinson. The Memphis Democrat was previously indicted on 48 federal fraud counts in July 2020 — 24 each of wire fraud and theft and embezzlement from the government. Robinson has denied wrongdoing.

Here’s the U.S. Justice Department release outlining the latest developments:

MEMPHIS, TN – Tennessee State Senator Katrina Robinson, 40, has been federally charged in a new case, along with two other co-defendants, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. D. Michael Dunavant, U.S. Attorney announced the unsealing of the new federal criminal complaint today.

According to information presented in Court, the Healthcare Institute (“THI”) is a post-secondary educational provider located in Memphis, Tennessee. It purports to provide training programs for jobs in the healthcare field, including certified nursing assistant, phlebotomist, and licensed practical nurse. It was founded in January 2015 as a Tennessee for-profit LLC, with Katrina Robinson as director. THI received more than $10,000 in federal funds each year between 2015 and 2019. During that period, Robinson is alleged to have stolen, converted, and intentionally misapplied property of THI for her own use. As a result, on July 30, 2020, she was indicted in Case No. 2:20-cr-20147-SHL, which is currently pending trial in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdtn/pr/federal-grand-jury-returns-indictment-charging-tennessee-state-senator-katrina-robinson

The charges in this new federal complaint arise from a completely separate fraud scheme in which Robinson, Katie Ayers, 59, and Brooke Boudreaux, 32, are alleged to have conspired to use THI to defraud victim R.S. out of $14,470.00, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349 and 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h).

As set forth in more detail in the complaint affidavit, while investigating the charges in the 2020 case, the FBI also uncovered a scheme in which the defendants convinced R.S. that Boudreaux, with whom he had an existing relationship, needed the money for tuition and expenses to attend THI. R.S. agreed and tendered $14,470.00 to THI for that purpose. In fact, the investigation revealed that Boudreaux was never a student at THI, and the conspirators split the money among themselves for their personal benefit and unjust enrichment.

If convicted, the defendants each face a possible sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison followed by three years supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system. The case will be presented to a federal grand jury at a later date to consider an indictment against the defendants.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations of criminal conduct, not evidence. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and convicted through due process of law.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris E. Cotten is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

Kelsey denies wrongdoing in straw donor investigation

Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), right, attends a Senate Education Committee meeting in Nashville on April 16, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) is denying any wrongdoing related to questions raised about fundraising practices surrounding his failed 2016 bid for Congress.

The Tennessee Journal reported last week that the Department of Justice has been speaking to state lawmakers about donations made to Kelsey’s federal campaign after receiving contributions from his state account.

As first reported in 2017 by The Tennessean (and later augmented by a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission), Kelsey’s state committee, Red State PAC, gave thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to fellow state lawmakers, who then turned around and gave donations to his congressional account. The former state Senate Judiciary chairman also had more than $100,000 from his state account transferred to the Standard Club PAC, which then gave money to the American Conservative Union — both directly and through another committee run by conservative businessman Andy Miller Jr. The national group then made independent expenditures on Kelsey’s behalf.

“I am humbled that my congressional campaign received donations from roughly sixty of my colleagues, the overwhelming majority of whom never received a dime from Red State PAC or my re-election committee,” Kelsey said in a statement issued to the Daily Memphian.

“Both before and after those contributions were made, Red State PAC and my re-election committee donated to conservative candidates based on independent criteria including whether the candidate had a competitive race or had demonstrated political courage and leadership. I welcome any investigation because all donations were made in compliance with the law and on the advice of counsel,” he said.

Feds charge intelligence analyst with leaking classified material

A Nashville man has been arrested on charges of illegally obtaining classified information and passing it along to a reporter.

Daniel Everette Hale was arrested Thursday morning and was scheduled to appear in federal court in Nashville later in the day. Hale was enlisted in the Air Force between 2009 and 2013, assigned to the National Security Agency and deployed to Afghanistan. After leaving active duty, he was employed by a defense contractor. Prosecutors allege Hale passed along confidential  material to a reporter whose outlet published at least 11 documents market secret or top secret.

Here’s the full release from the Justice Department:

WASHINGTON – An indictment was unsealed today charging a former intelligence analyst with illegally obtaining classified national defense information and disclosing it to a reporter.  Daniel Everette Hale, 31, of Nashville, Tennessee, was arrested this morning and will make his initial appearance today at the federal courthouse in Nashville.  Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger for the Eastern District of Virginia and Acting Special Agent in Charge Jennifer L. Moore of the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office made the announcement after the charges were unsealed. 

According to the indictment, Hale was enlisted in the U.S. Air Force from July 2009 to July 2013, during which time he received language and intelligence training.  While serving on active duty, Hale was assigned to work at the National Security Agency (NSA) and deployed to Afghanistan as an intelligence analyst.  After leaving the U.S. Air Force, Hale was employed by a defense contractor and assigned to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), where he worked as a political geography analyst between December 2013 and August 2014.  In connection with his active duty service and work for the NSA, and during his time at NGA, Hale held a Top Secret//Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS//SCI) security clearance and was entrusted with access to classified national defense information.

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