TALLAHASSEE, Florida – Andrew Gillum, 2018 Democratic nominee for Florida governor and former Tallahassee mayor, and a longtime adviser, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, were arrested Wednesday on federal campaign-related charges.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida confirmed the charges in an announcement. Gillum, 42, and Lettman-Hicks, 53, were both named in a 21-count indictment.
The indictment alleges that between 2016 and 2019, Gillum and Lettman-Hicks conspired to commit wire fraud by unlawfully soliciting and obtaining funds from various entities and individuals “through false and fraudulent promises and representations that the funds would be used for a legitimate purpose,” the government said.
Gillum and Lettman-Hicks both surrendered to the FBI. They are scheduled to have their first court appearance at 2 p.m. at the U.S. Courthouse in Tallahassee.
Gillum denied any wrongdoing in a statement sent through his campaign.
“I have spent the last 20 years of my life in public service and continue to fight for the people,” Gillum said in a prepared statement. “Every campaign I’ve run has been done with integrity. Make no mistake that this case is not legal, it is political.”
Details of the charges were not immediately available. If he were indicted by a federal grand jury, it’s possible documents detailing the charges will be unsealed soon.
Gillum went on to say, “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.”
A previous brush with the feds:Timeline to trouble: How Andrew Gillum got mixed up in an FBI probe and ethics inquiry
Marc Elias and David Oscar Markus, two of his lawyers, issued a statement saying Gillum would be cleared of the allegations.
“The government got it wrong today,” the lawyers said. “The evidence in this case is clear and will show that Mr. Gillum is innocent of all charges. We look forward to putting this case to rest and giving Andrew and his family peace of mind once and for all.”
Gillum has been under FBI scrutiny for years as chronicled by the Tallahassee Democrat. The bureau investigated Gillum as part of its “Operation Capital Currency” probe into public corruption at Tallahassee City Hall.
The investigation, which began in 2015, led to the indictments of former Mayor Scott Maddox, his longtime aide Paige Carter-Smith and wealthy businessman John “J.T.” Burnette on bribery related charges. All three were sentenced last year to federal prison time.
The same undercover agents who investigated Maddox and his co-conspirators also hung out with Gillum during a 2016 trip to New York City. Gillum and others joined the FBI agents for a performance of “Hamilton” and a fancy boat ride out to the Statue of Liberty.
Those interactions led to state ethics charges and a $5,000 fine against Gillum, who pleaded guilty to avoid the public spectacle of an ethics trial. News of the FBI investigation and its intersections with Gillum plagued him during his 2018 campaign for Florida governor, which he narrowly lost to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
In 2019, both Gillum and Lettman-Hicks appeared to be under the cloud of an FBI investigation involving his campaign for governor. A federal grand jury in Tallahassee issued at least one subpoena demanding records involving his gubernatorial campaign and his political action committee, Forward Florida.
Lettman-Hicks, who qualified last week to run for the Florida House District 8 seat, was asked about that investigation in a recent interview with the Democrat.
“Nothing came of it,” she said.
Contact Jeff Burlew at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @JeffBurlew on Twitter.
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