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Tennessee state senator’s trial for theft begins

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (AP) – Jury selection began Monday in the trial of a Tennessee state senator accused of stealing more than $ 600,000 in federal funds received by a school of health care than she ruled and used the money to pay for her wedding and other personal expenses.

State Senator Katrina Robinson was charged in July 2020 with wire fraud, theft and embezzlement involving government programs, after the FBI searched the school and her home. She pleaded not guilty.

The Memphis Democrat was elected to the General Assembly in 2018. She has been accused of stealing funds from federal grants planned for the Healthcare Institute, which offers training for jobs in the healthcare field.

The school, run by Robinson, has received more than $ 2.2 million in federal grants from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

An FBI affidavit alleges that federal funds were deposited into the school’s bank account for its operations. The funds were then “indiscriminately mixed with personal expenses for the benefit of Robinson and his immediate family,” wrote FBI Special Agent Matthew Pruitt.

From 2015 to 2019, Robinson used over $ 600,000 in grants to pay for personal expenses such as her wedding and honeymoon, a 2016 Jeep Renegade for her daughter, travel and entertainment for her family, and an event for his campaign in the state Senate, prosecutors mentioned.

She also used the money to pay for legal fees for her divorce, home renovations and a snow cone business operated by her children, prosecutors said.

Robinson also paid herself $ 169,134 more than she was allowed below the salary amounts allowed by the federal grant, according to the FBI affidavit. She also gave herself $ 54,000 for her personal retirement account, prosecutors said.

Robinson’s attorney Janika White said Robinson would be vindicated. Robinson said in July 2020 that she would fight the charges.

“It is believed that if I was not in the position I am in, that if I did not stand up for the voices, points of view and faces that I represent, I would not be right now right now,” Robinson said. , which is black.

The Senate Democratic Caucus said Robinson’s work in the state legislature “is not in question” and that it “deserves the presumption of innocence and due process.”

If convicted, Robinson faces a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison. Robinson would be re-eligible in 2022.

Robinson also faces federal charges in a second case related to alleged tuition fee fraud. She has pleaded not guilty in this case.