TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Andrew Gillum, the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor of Florida, has been indicted on 21 federal charges, including conspiracy and wire transfer fraud for channeling third-party donations to himself for personal use, prosecutors said Wednesday.
The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida said Gillum, 42, is also being charged with making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation because he claimed he did not receive or ask for anything from two undercover agents posing as developers. The undercover officers offered gifts and money in exchange for support for projects.
Sharon Janet Lettman-Hicks, 53 and the owner of a communications company, is co-defendant in the charge of transferring money to Gillum in the form of paychecks, US attorney Jason R. Coody said in a statement.
Prosecutors said the couple “conspired to commit fraud by unlawfully soliciting and obtaining funds from various entities and individuals through false and fraudulent promises and statements that the funds would be used for a legitimate purpose.”
Gillam denied the allegations in a statement released through his lawyers.
“Make no mistake that this case is not legal, but political. Throughout my career, I have always stood up for the people of Florida and spoken the truth to power,” the statement said. “Ever since I was mayor of Tallahassee, I have had a target on my back. They found nothing then and I am confident that my legal team will now prove my innocence.
He first appeared in federal court on Wednesday afternoon and entered the courtroom, chained at the ankles and wrists. He and Lettman-Hicks pleaded not guilty to all charges. A trial date was set for August 16. Both were released without bail with instructions not to leave the Northern District of Florida without permission.
Gillum encountered undercover FBI agents posing as developers while he was mayor and during his campaign for governor. His associates asked for donations from the agents and suggested ways to provide money without listing them as political contributions, including paying for a fundraising dinner, according to the indictment.
The agents were asked to contribute $100,000 to Gillum’s campaign and said the money could be given to a private company to keep the agents’ names from the campaign finance documents. The agents said they wanted favorable consideration in development projects and were told that would not be a problem, the indictment said.
The officers also met Gillum in New York City and paid for his hotel, food and drinks, a boat trip and a ticket to see “Hamilton,” according to the indictment.
Later, other FBI agents interviewed Gillum and asked if he had any contact with the undercover agents. Gillum told them he never asked or received anything from the “developers,” and stopped communicating with them after they tried to match contributions to support for their projects, the indictment said.
An individual not named in the indictment donated $250,000 to Gillum’s political committee, but only $100,000 was spent on the campaign. Gillum and Lettman-Hicks said most of the remaining money went to a voter education program, knowing the service would not be provided, according to the indictment.
Instead, the money went to Lettman-Hicks’ company. She kept a few and sent the rest back to Gillum in various payments ranging from nearly $3,600 to $10,000 each.
It’s the final troubles for Gillum, who lost to Republican administration Ron DeSantis in a race that narrate† Gillum fell 32,464 votes short of being elected from over 8.2 million votes cast.
Gillum was mayor of Tallahassee before running for governor. He won a crowded Democratic primary against better-funded candidates with 34.4% of the vote, stunning political observers. The charismatic politician won the hearts of hardcore Democratic activists and ran a strong grassroots campaign.
After his loss, Gillum was still seen as a rising star in Democratic politics and was hired as a CNN analyst.
Then, in March 2020, Gillum was found drunk and unconscious in a hotel room with two men, including one who works as a male escort. Two days later he came in rehabilitation centerand later did a television interview saying he is bisexual.