Tennessee state senator Katrina Robinson has been accused of embezzling $600,000 in federal money to fund her wedding, honeymoon as well as the legal fees for her divorce, according to federal prosecutors.
The Tennessee senator has now been charged with theft and embezzlement of government funds and could face up to 20 years in jail. The money in question was intended to fund a nursing program at a vocational school owned by the senator but was instead diverted to add to her salary, help finance her other businesses and paying living expenses, according to an affidavit.
Robison, 39, a registered nurse, founded the Healthcare Institute in 2015, according to its website. The college provides training programs for certified nursing assistants, phlebotomists and licensed practical nursing. According to prosecutors, from 2015 to 2019, Robinson took more than $600,000 of the funds from the Memphis-based school to pay for her wedding and honeymoon.
She also allegedly used part of the funds to cover the legal fees for her divorce, home furnishing and a business owned by her children. The prosecutors further added that Robinson spent some of the funds to purchase a Jeep Renegade for her daughter, bought herself a Louis Vuitton handbag at the cost of $550 as well as a family trip to Jamaica.
According to the complaint, the Healthcare Institute received over $2.2 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to train nurses to care for geriatric patients and provide need-based scholarships for the program.
Investigators noted that the federal funds were deposited into the school’s account for its operations but the money was later “commingled indiscriminately with personal expenditure for the benefit of Robinson and her immediate family,” FBI special agent Matthew Pruitt wrote.
The investigation into the alleged misappropriation of the funds was commenced by the Health and Human Services Department and later, the FBI.
“Protection of the U.S. Treasury and federal grant programs against theft, fraud, waste and abuse is a top priority of this office and the Department of Justice,” D. Michael Dunavant, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, said in a statement on Wednesday. “We commend the F.B.I. and the HHS-OIG for their diligent and thorough investigation in this case.”
On her part, the Democratic senator said she plans to continue to serve in the state legislature “with the same integrity, the same passion that I’ve demonstrated since you’ve elected me to this office.”
“It is believed that if I were not in the position that I’m in, that if I did not champion the voices, the views and the faces that I represent, that I would not be in this moment right now,” Robinson said.
Robinson was first elected in 2018 to represent Shelby County. She is seeking reelection in 2022. If convicted on the charges, she will face a 20-year jail term in addition to paying a fine of $250,000. The US has no federal parole release.