Disgraced DeSantis rival Gillum to face federal trial over alleged fraud conspiracy, false statements to FBI

 April 18, 2023

Former Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who lost a close gubernatorial race in 2018 to Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, is set to begin a trial this week on federal conspiracy and fraud charges, the Washington Examiner reported.

The charges stem from allegations that he and an accomplice conspired to defraud donors and then used political contributions for other purposes, including enriching themselves, and also stands accused of having lied to FBI investigators when asked about illicit gifts received from undercover FBI agents.

Criminally indicted

In June 2022, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida announced that a federal grand jury had issued a 21-count indictment against former Mayor Gillum, 42, and his accomplice/co-conspirator, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, 53, for an alleged wire fraud scheme perpetrated between 2016-2019.

The pair were alleged to have unlawfully solicited and received funding from an assortment of entities and individuals "through false and fraudulent promises and representations that the funds would be used for a legitimate purpose."

They are then alleged to have diverted some of the unlawfully obtained funds through a company owned by Lettman-Hicks, a portion of which was then fraudulently disguised as "payroll" payments to Gillum that were then used by him for personal purposes. Gillum is also charged with lying to the FBI during the investigation.

If convicted, Gillum could face up to five years in prison for making false statements, up to 20 years for conspiracy to commit fraud, and up to 20 years for wire fraud.

The downfall of a once-promising future star

The Tampa Bay Times reported that former Tallahassee Mayor Gillum was considered to be a top rising star for the Democratic Party in 2018 until he lost the gubernatorial race to Gov. DeSantis by roughly 34,000 votes and then further fell from grace when he was discovered in a hotel room with a drug overdose victim in 2020.

Then came the 2022 indictment for allegedly defrauding Democratic megadonors and allied organizations by soliciting donations that would ostensibly be used for legitimate political purposes but were instead funneled into the pockets of Gillum and Lettman-Hicks, his adviser and mentor, for their own personal use.

Just prior to the start of the trial, the DOJ issued an updated indictment that dropped two of the wire fraud charges, reducing the total count to 19 federal felony charges. The estimated three-week trial kicked off on Monday with jury selection in a Tallahassee federal courtroom, and the former mayor's attorney, David Markus, said, "This is our chance to show Andrew’s innocence, and we’re looking forward to it."

Alleged fraud conspiracy, lying to the FBI

The Times reported that, according to prosecutors, Gillum is alleged to have had his campaign transfer $60,000 to Lettman-Hicks' company, P&P Communications, on the day after he lost the 2018 election to DeSantis, ostensibly for the company's work to assist the campaign, after which Lettman-Hicks then made four transfers of $5,000 to a personal account for Gillum that were labeled as "bonuses."

In all, an estimated $57,000 in campaign funds and from other sources were allegedly unlawfully diverted into Gillum's personal account.

As for the false statements charge, that stemmed from a 2016 trip to New York City that Gillum and his brother, Marcus, took with undercover FBI agents posing as real estate developers who showered the brothers with illicit gifts that included paying for hotel rooms, food and drinks, a boat ride, and Broadway show tickets.

When asked about those "gifts" by FBI investigators in 2017, he first denied ever having received any of them, then further claimed that his brother had purchased the Broadway show tickets.

Gillum has long proclaimed that he is not guilty of the charges against him, according to the Times, and said in a statement following his indictment last year, "There’s been a target on my back ever since I was the mayor of Tallahassee," and added, "They found nothing then, and I have full confidence that my legal team will prove my innocence now."

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