“Beautiful Liar”: Corrine Brown Indicted Following Fraud Investigation

“Corruption erodes the public’s trust in our entire system of representative government”
– Lisa Caldwell, U.S. Justice Department

Earlier this month, ABC News and other major news outlets reported that long-time member of the United States House of Representatives Corrine Brown has been indicted on 24 counts of white-collar crime. The indictment followed a U.S. Department of Justice investigation of a supposed charity organization run by Brown and others known as “One Door.” The DOJ found substantial evidence that One Door was a “slush fund” for Brown and her alleged co-conspirators to enjoy lavish entertainment, including $200,000 in charity funds spent on a luxury box where Brown and others allegedly saw Beyonce perform, among other hits, her song “Beautiful Liar.”

Democratic leaders such as House Party leader Nancy Pelosi were quick to thank Brown for her service in Congress, yet Pelosi called Brown’s behavior “deeply saddening,” according to the ABC report. Brown is, of course, innocent until proven guilty of these charges in a court of law, but this is not the first accusation of corruption and misappropriation of funds concerning Brown. Further, the evidence against her is quite damning.

Speaking on behalf of the Department of Justice, its chief of the criminal division Lisa Caldwell stated “Congresswoman Brown and her chief of staff are alleged to have used [her] official position to solicit over $800,000 in donations to a supposed charitable organization, only to use that organization as a personal slush fund.” In addition to the Beyonce concert, the slush fund was allegedly used to fund a golf tournament called the “Corrine Brown Invitational” and a luxury suite to a Redskins vs. Jaguars football game.

From a compliance perspective, this is yet another edition of what seems like a weekly potpourri of high-level corruption scandals. What is so sad about this story is that Brown didn’t even try very hard to hide what she was doing, soliciting up to $20,000 per attendee at the Corrine Brown Invitational. Like many corporate executives, Brown appears to have tasted the fruit of corruption and decided “I won’t get caught . . .” which is the mantra for white-collar criminals everywhere. For quite some time it worked well too. Brown lived large and had a reputation as a civil rights leader and charitable person while a snowball effect happened: the lies grew bigger and Brown’s wallet grew fatter.

We can’t say it enough; organizations – from governments to corporations – have to make compliance a priority. The Corrine Brown situation is a more than just a personal black eye, it is a political disaster in an election year that paints a negative light on a party already under fire for scandals of varying degrees at its highest levels. The risk is too great to do anything but engage in a full-scale campaign to instill a culture of compliance within your organization. If you don’t your next luxury box could be 5’ by 5’ in a resort destination such as Mojave, California. Do yourself and your organization a favor: Prioritize compliance over profits. It will be a winning investment in the end.

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