Friday, January 21, 2022

Judge acquits Tennessee State Sen. Katrina Robinson on 2 wire fraud charges

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U.S. District Judge Sheryl H. Lipman has acquitted Tennessee State Sen. Katrina Robinson of two counts of wire fraud but left two of her four counts remaining.

Robinson was found guilty in a jury trial in September 2021 of the four counts of wire fraud in connection with her leadership and ownership of The Healthcare Institute, a nursing school, and its management of funds received under a Health Resources and Services Administration grant.

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The new order, issued Thursday, granted Robinson her request to acquit her of charges that she submitted annual performance reports in the years 2017-18 and 2018-19 to HRSA that contained fraudulent misinterpretations of The Healthcare Institute’s operations in furtherance of a scheme to defraud HRSA.

However, the judge denied Robinson’s motion to acquit her of the two other counts, which charged Robinson with improperly using HRSA grant funds to pay for two personal expenditures related to her wedding in furtherance of a scheme to defraud HRSA. One was to a caterer, the other to a makeup artist. The expenses totaled less than $3,500.

In her testimony at trial, Robinson said that her now-former husband later deposited cash back into the account to offset those expenses.

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But in an email exchange with a manager charged with processing THI’s transactions, Robinson appeared to describe the charges as “purchases for our patient education event [that] … that should be under our ADRD funds for grant accounting purchases,” according to the court ruling.

“I am grateful that her honor reviewed the trial proceedings and partially granted our motion acquitting me of the two wire fraud charges stemming from data entry reports that were completed by former employees of my corporation,” Robinson said in a written statement. “However, my legal team is still reviewing the order from the court in order to make decisions on our next steps, as we intend to continue to fight this case. Had we not contested the government’s actions and theory at every turn, I would have been punished for even more crimes that I absolutely did not commit.”

Robinson, 40, was initially accused by the government of misusing $600,000 in federal funding meant for scholarships. Instead, prosecutors said, some of the federal funding was used for personal expenses associated with Robinson’s wedding, a Jeep for her daughter, designer handbags and other items.

At the trial, Lipman granted a motion from the defense to acquit Robinson on 15 of 20 federal charges of fraud and embezzlement.

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