Andrew Gillum, the once-rising Florida Democratic star who narrowly lost the 2018 governor’s race to Ron DeSantis, was hit with a 21-count federal indictment Wednesday for wire fraud, related conspiracy charges and making false statements.
Gillum, the former Tallahassee mayor, was charged along with his mentor, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, for fraudulently fundraising from “various entities” between 2016 to 2019, according to a Department of Justice press release. The Justice Department said the two allegedly diverted some of the money to a company controlled by Lettman-Hicks, who fraudulently disguised the funds as payroll payments to Gillum.
In a written statement, Gillum and his lawyers proclaimed his innocence. Lettman-Hicks — a candidate for a state House seat — has not returned texts or calls from NBC News requesting comment.
“I have spent the last 20 years of my life in public service and continue to fight for the people,” Gillum said. “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.”
The indictment marks a new low for Gillum, a married father of three who withdrew from public life as a political leader and a paid CNN commentator after a March 2020 sex scandal involving a suspected male overdose victim in a South Beach hotel.
At the time, Gillum said he was abusing alcohol as he coped with his loss to DeSantis, but campaign finance records and a leaked criminal subpoena in 2019 showed that Gillum also faced the pressure of an FBI investigation.
Two sources with whom Gillum spoke Tuesday told NBC News that he began phoning friends frantically about the criminal case when he was informed that his indictment was imminent. Neither would speak on the record because they weren’t authorized to speak on his behalf. They said Gillum rendered himself to prosecutors at 10 a.m. and that his indictment could be unsealed at 1 p.m. ET. He makes his first appearance at 2 p.m., according to DOJ.
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SOURCE: NBC News, Marc Caputo