Katrina Robinson who was elected to represent a Memphis district in the Tennessee Senate in 2018, was removed from office last month by the Republican-led Senate in a vote along party lines
Katrina Robinson was convicted for embezzling $600,000 in 2020, instead of investing it at a nursing school she founded in Tennessee
The school which Robinson directed, The Healthcare Institute, received more than $2.2 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
She was accused of misusing federal grant money over four years, using the money to pay for her wedding and other personal expenses
Robinson was acquitted on 15 of 20 charges sought by federal prosecutors
Robinson, 41, had been handed probation after striking plea-deal fraud case which saw her use federal cash to pay for her wedding, honeymoon and divorce, as well as Jeep for her daughter and LV purse
Robinson used money from tuition payments from the school to cover legal fees for her divorce, home improvements and a snow-cone business
She also bought a $500 Louis Vuitton bag, travelled to Jamaica and bought her daughter a Jeep Cherokee
She also awarded herself $169,134 more in salary than she was allowed to under salary amounts permitted
A disgraced Democrat state senator dodged jail thanks to a plea deal over a $600,000 fraud which saw her spend federal cash on her wedding, honeymoon up to her subsequent divorce. Former state senator Katrina Robinson who was elected to represent a Memphis district in the state Senate in 2018, was removed from office last month by the Republican-led Senate in a vote along party lines.
Before the 27-5 vote to remove her from the Senate, Robinson, who is black, argued that she had been unfairly judged by the white-majority body.
She called it a ‘procedural lynching,’ prompting cheers of support that the Republican speaker gaveled down. Some of her supporters in the gallery were in tears and others stood in solidarity.
It was the first time the chamber had removed a senator since at least the Civil War.
In July 2020, Robinson was charged with stealing more than $600,000 in federal funds received by a health care school she directed and using the money to pay for her wedding and other personal expenses.
A jury convicted her of four out of five counts of wire fraud, but a judge later dismissed two more of those charges.
Robinson, 41, struck the plea deal Friday which saw her admit just two of the 20 counts she was facing, with a value of $3,400. Sentencing guidelines could have seen the former Tennessee lawmaker face up to 10 months in prison for those counts.
Ultimately, US District Judge Sheryl H Lipman decided to let Robinson off with a slap on the wrist, and sentenced her to just a year of probation after claiming that the swindler had suffered enough already.
She squandered much of the cash on a lavish 2016 wedding, as well as her honeymoon, and even the legal fees for her divorce, when the marriage to her unnamed husband foundered.
Robinson also bought an SUV, a Jeep Renegade, for her daughter. Her pride and joy appeared to be a Louis Vuitton purse she brazenly displayed in photos.
She also spent money on expensive trips including a lavish vacation to Jamaica. She even financed another business she operated called Kool Kidz Kones.
Based on bank records, over a four-year period, investigators found evidence that Robinson had given herself a $25,400 performance bonus, paid herself more than her allocated salary and transferred $54,000 to a retirement fund, according to charging documents.
The discrepancies amount to $169,134 more in salary than she was allowed to under salary amounts permitted by the federal grant, according to a 2020 FBI affidavit.
The Healthcare Institute also received more than $2.2million in federal grants in 2020 from the US Department of Health and Human Services to train nursing staff.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Sheryl H. Lipman departed from the guidelines at sentencing, saying Robinson had already suffered greatly and the Memphis community would gain no benefit from prison time for the nursing school administrator, community leader and mother of two.
The records show that Robinson also paid herself more than $169,134 in salary than she was legally allowed to from 2015 to 2019, according to a 2020 affidavit [listed in the document gallery]. The FBI said the agency received a complaint from someone who claimed Robinson used the school’s funds to buy a Louis Vuitton handbag (pictured) for $550.
On Friday, prosecutor Christopher Cotten asked the judge to sentence Robinson to ten months in prison, saying she had shown ‘abject defiance of accepting any responsibility for her actions’ and had unfairly blamed racism for the charges.
During the sentencing hearing, Robinson told the judge that she understood the importance of her case and acknowledged that she did not keep a ‘tight eye on things.’
Lipman, the judge, said she read 57 letters of support for Robinson. Former students and current employees described her as a great mother, nurturing educator, inspiring community leader and dedicated nurse. Robinson traveled outside Tennessee during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic to help care for sick patients in hospitals.
However, Lipman also scolded Robinson for blaming the charges on ‘hot button issues’ such as race, although the judge did acknowledge past cases of racial injustice in the court system. Lipman criticized Robinson’s sloppy record keeping and added that Robinson failed to respect the federal grant funded by taxpayers by not giving it proper attention.
The judge gave Robinson some advice.
‘Someone who tries to do everything needs to edit, and needs to edit desperately,’ Lipman said.
Lipman also ruled Friday that Robinson had committed perjury during her trial when she defended an email that said money she used on her wedding was for a community patient education event and should be covered by grant money.
After the hearing, Robinson told reporters that she felt probation was appropriate and she plans to continue working in the community.
‘Most of the stuff that I talked about as it relates to race has to do with my Senate expulsion first of all, and just the overall pattern since the beginning of times when black elected officials were able to serve – not necessarily that I do not accept responsibility for this case,’ Robinson said.
Robinson avoids o avoid prison, Robinson has already paid a steep price, both to her reputation and her finances, said her lawyer, Lawrence Laurenzi. Robinson has struggled in securing a checking account, her retirement account has been seized by the federal government, and she could lose her nursing license, the lawyer said.
Laurenzi said he plans to appeal the conviction.
After Robinson’s expulsion from the Senate, the Shelby County Commission chose another black woman, Democratic state Rep. London Lamar, to replace her. Commissioners will choose Lamar’s replacement in the state House.