Andrew Gillum, 42, who narrowly lost to Ron DeSantis in the 2018 midterm elections as Florida’s governor, was charged, along with an associate, by federal prosecutors in 21-count federal indictment Wednesday in Tallahassee.
The former Tallahassee mayor, Gillum was charged along with his mentor, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, for fraudulently fundraising from “various entities” between 2016 to 2019, according to the Department of Justice.
They were indicted for wire fraud, conspiracy and lying over how they raised and used funds while he was in office and on the campaign trail.
Gillum and Lettman-Hicks allegedly diverted some of the money to a company controlled by Lettman-Hicks, who allegedly fraudulently disguised the funds as payroll payments to Gillum.
The fraud and conspiracy charges are related to Gillum’s dealings with Lettman-Hicks with regard to her company, P&P Communications, and Gillum’s campaign.
Both are charged with 19 counts of wire fraud. Gillum is also charged with two counts of making false statements to the FBI, according to a press release issued by Jason R. Coody, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.
Lettman-Hicks filed earlier in June to run for a state House seat after the incumbent, Rep. Ramon Alexander, resigned amid a sexting scandal.
“I have spent the last 20 years of my life in public service and continue to fight for the people,” Gillum said in a written statement. “Every campaign I’ve run has been done with integrity. Make no mistake that this case is not legal, it is political. Throughout my career I have always stood up for the people of Florida and have spoken truth to power. There’s been a target on my back ever since I was the mayor of Tallahassee. They found nothing then, and I have full confidence that my legal team will prove my innocence now.”
Gillum became the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor in a historic upset. News outlets at the time reported that the FBI was looking into his activities as Tallahassee mayor. He lost the governor’s race by about 34,000 votes — a margin of 0.4 percent — triggering a recount. Gillum became a CNN commentator. In March 2020, police said they responded to an overdose call and found him in a South Beach hotel room, with two other men and three bags of suspected crystal meth on the bed and the floor. No arrests were made.
Lettman-Hicks, 53, is a consultant who runs the National Black Justice Coalition advocating for Black LBGTQ people. She was a top adviser to Gillum in his Tallahassee city commission and mayoral races and gubernatorial campaign.
Federal prosecutors allege that Gillum and Lettman-Hicks funneled money from his political committee to pay Gillum directly, defrauding campaign mega-donors and others who believed they were donating to legitimate political causes, Miami Herald reported.
“The government got it wrong today. The evidence in this case is clear and will show that Mr. Gillum is innocent of all charges,” Gillum’s attorneys said in a statement. “We look forward to putting this case to rest and giving Andrew and his family peace of mind once and for all.”
Social media users observed that the charges against Gillum sound similar to things Donald Trump should be charged with.
“This looks like some Donald Trump should be charged with,” tweeted. “These crimes seems similar.”
“If you are black in politics, you must absolutely dot every ‘i’ & cross every ‘t’ when it comes to following the rules because the minute you don’t they will come for you” tweeted @akamikki08. “It’s especially true as black people ascend to power. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is allowed to do.”
Photo: Florida gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum attends a grassroots campaign event at the African American Research Library, Oct. 29, 2018 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (mpi04/MediaPunch /IPX)