katrina robinson

New TNJ edition alert: Megasite comes out on top

In this week’s print edition of The Tennessee Journal:

— Dirty word no more: West Tenn. megasite lands huge Ford plant.

— Obituaries: 16-year justice Clark, GOP player Shoaf, income tax backer Stewart.

— Federal jury convicts Democrat Robinson of wire fraud charges.

Also: Niceley touts “soft secession,” Fiscus wants to put muzzle business behind her, congressional delegation wants to name post office after Harper, and a look into endangered species among Tennessee politicos.

As always, access your copy of the TNJ here or subscribe here.

Democratic Sen. Robinson convicted in federal fraud case

A federal jury has found Democratic state Sen. Katrina Robinson of Memphis guilty of four counts of wire fraud.

Katrina Robinson (Image credit: Tennessee General Assemlby)

Robinson’s prospects at trial had been looking up after the judge last week granted a defense motion to acquit her of 15 of the 20 counts she had been charged with. But the trial proceeded this week on the remainder of the case and the freshman senator was convicted after the jury of eight women and four men deliberated Thursday for five hours.

The dismissed counts include allegations Robinson had illegally spent grant money on her 2018 Senate campaign, legal fees for her divorce, and contributions to her retirement account.

What remained of the more than $600,000 prosecutors had alleged Robinson misspent were two counts of wire fraud related to $2,326 she paid an artist through a booking agent and $1,158 that went to a wedding makeup artist. Also surviving the judge’s ruling were three counts of wire fraud alleging Robinson made fraudulent representations in annual performance reports from 2017 through 2019. The jury acquitted Robinson of any wrongdoing on her 2018 report.

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) called on Robinson to resign.

“While Senator Robinson’s convictions did not stem from actions taken while in office, they are nevertheless very serious,” McNally said in a statement. “As public servants, we are held to a higher standard. My personal opinion is that it would be in the best interest of the state and her constituents for Senator Robinson to step down at this time.”

Robinson faced up to 20 years in prison for the full set of wire fraud charges before she was acquitted of most of them. Sentencing is scheduled for January.

Judge grants acquittal motion on 15 of 20 charges against state Sen. Katrina Robinson

Katrina Robinson (Image credit: Tennessee General Assemlby)

A federal judge has granted a motion for acquittal on 15 of 20 charges in the fraud trial of state Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis).

U.S. District Judge Sheryl Lipman said she would make an an oral ruling in court on Monday morning, with the jury set to return later in the day to hear the defense’s case. Robinson’s attorneys had made the motion to dismiss the entire case after the prosecution had rested last week, arguing the government had failed to prove she had misspent federal grant money meant for her nursing school on personal expenses.

The dismissed counts include allegations Robinson had illegally spent grant money on her 2018 Senate campaign, legal fees for her divorce, and contributions to her retirement account.

What remains of the more than $600,000 prosecutors had alleged Robinson misspent are two counts of wire fraud related to $2,326 she paid an artist through a booking agent and $1,158 that went to a wedding makeup artist. Also surviving the judge’s ruling are three counts of wire fraud alleging Robinson made fraudulent representations in annual performance reports from 2017 through 2019.

Jury seated in Democratic Sen. Robinson’s fraud trial

Katrina Robinson (Image credit: Tennessee General Assemlby)

A jury has been seated in the federal fraud trial of state Sen. Katrina Robinson. The Memphis Democrat is charged with spending more than $600,000 in federal grant money meant for her nursing school on personal expenses.

Opening statements are expected to take place on Tuesday. The trial could last more than three weeks.

Students at Robinson’s Healthcare Institute gathered outside the courthouse.

“We’re here to support her. She’s been nothing but great and amazing and we’re just going to support her,” Jennifer Taylor told WREG-TV. “But to be here together, standing for her, I’m very proud and very honored to be a part of the Healthcare Institute.”

The judge last week denied prosecutors’ motion to move the trial to Jackson or to bring in a jury pool from outside Shelby County.

Robinson, who was elected to the Senate in 2018, has pleaded not guilty.

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.

Feds charge Democratic state Sen. Robinson with embezzlement

Freshman state Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) is facing federal theft and embezzlement charges.

Prosecutors allege Robinson stole stole more than $600,000 from her business, the Healthcare Institute, by paying herself more than what was allowed under the terms the grant she received, the Daily Mempian reports.

Robinson defeated the late Sen. Reginald Tate in the primary in 2018 and went on to win the heavily Democratic district.

The Senate Democratic Caucus issued the following statement:

It’s clear that Sen. Robinson’s work in the state legislature on behalf of her constituents is not in question here today. Just like every other American, Sen. Robinson deserves the presumption of innocence and due process under the law. Her case should be resolved by a court of law, not by the court of public opinion.”

Investigators this week searched Robinson’s home and business again after conducting earlier raids in February. The complaint alleges Robinson used the money to buy a vehicle for her daughter, clothing, and beauty products. She is also charged with spending grant money on her wedding and honeymoon, followed by legal fees for her divorce.

Robinson’s company, the Healthcare Institute, in 2015 received a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2015 to educate people  “looking for a jumpstart to their education and also to provide patient education to the elderly community.”

An anonymous complaint filed in 2016 alleged Robinson had spent $550 in grant funds to buy a Louis Vuitton handbag. The agency’s inspector general opened an investigation, which the FBI later joined.

FBI searches nursing school founded by Democratic state senator

The FBI has executed search warrants at a Memphis  home and nursing school of Democratic state Sen. Katrina Robinson.

Toranio Bishop, who works at the nearby Detroit Barbershop, told the Commercial Appeal he said he saw what appeared to be FBI agents enter the nursing school at at 7 a.m. Friday.

“They came in like a parade,” Bishop told the paper, adding that  students arriving  at the school then left immediately.

The lawmaker didn’t immediately respond to questions from the Commercial Appeal or the Daily Memphian.

“We’ve been made aware of the investigation and have received no indication that it relates to the legislature or her legislative service,” said Senate Democratic Caucus spokesman Brandon Puttbrese. “Because the investigation is ongoing, we will not be making additional statements and will defer any further questions to Sen. Robinson’s attorney. Our thoughts are with Sen. Robinson and her family.”

Robinson founded the Healthcare Institute in 2015, according to its website. The for-profit school received at least $1.6 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Robinson in 2018 defeated incumbent Sen. Reginald Tate in the Democratic primary. Tate died last year.