MEMPHIS (TN) On Thursday, a Tennessee senator was convicted of using federal grant money to fund a school for health care she ran on her wedding and for other personal expenses.
A federal jury of 12 members found state senator Katrina Robinson guilty of four out of five wire fraud charges. A judge had already acquitted Robinson of 15 of the 20 charges brought by federal prosecutors in Memphis. This is where Robinson's school for health-care workers is located. Although the original charges against Robinson claimed she had stolen more than $600,000., most of the charges were dropped. The total amount was now $3,400.
After a search of her home and school by the FBI, Robinson, a Memphis Democrat, was arrested in July 2020 for wire fraud and theft and embezzlement involving state programs.
Prosecutors claimed she stole federal grant money from The Healthcare Institute. This institute provides training in health care, including geriatric nursing assistant jobs.
The School received federal grants totaling more than $2.2 Million from the Health Resources and Services Administration (an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). From 2015 to 2019, federal grant money was allocated for student scholarships.
Robinson stated that she entered the court process knowing I was innocent. Robinson spoke to reporters shortly after her conviction. Robinson's attorneys stated that they would file a motion to retry her or ask for a reconsideration from the judge.
Republican Lt. Governor Randy McNally, the Senate's leader, called for Robinson's resignation on Thursday.
McNally stated that although Senator Robinson's convictions were not based on actions taken during his term, they are very serious." McNally added in a statement. "As public servants we are held to a higher standard. I believe it would be in Senator Robinson's best interests and those of her constituents to step down.
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Robinson stated that Robinson was unsure if she would resign.
She said that I am still committed to my service to the state Senate. But, I haven't yet decided how to move forward.
Prosecutors tried to prove that Robinson spent more than $600,000. in grant money for personal expenses, such as her wedding, honeymoon, Jeep Renegade for her child, travel and entertainment for the family, and a snow cone shop for her children. During the trial which began in September 13, prosecutors referred to financial documents and FBI agents.
Defense lawyers countered, arguing that Robinson didn't use government funds for personal expenses. Robinson, according to her lawyers, used the profits from Memphis school tuition and other income.
Unexpectedly, U.S. District Judge Sheryl lipman acquitted Robinson on Sunday of 15 counts of fraud, theft, and embezzlement in relation to government programs. The defense attorneys filed a motion for dismissal of the charges, arguing that the prosecutors did not prove Robinson had used federal grant funds to pay personal expenses.
Robinson maintained her innocence throughout the indictment. She took the stand to defend herself. Robinson, a nurse, single mother of two and a nurse, was also interrogated about student enrollment, school expenses and scholarships.
This report was contributed by Jonathan Mattise in Nashville, Tennessee and Kimberlee Krüesi in Nashville.