Former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum was charged Wednesday with fraud and conspiracy.
Gillum, who lost to Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2018 by just 30,000 votes, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Gillum retreated from public life in 2020 after a widely publicized sex scandal.
Andrew Gillum, the former Tallahassee mayor who narrowly lost the 2018 race to become governor of Florida, was indicted Wednesday on conspiracy and wire fraud charges.
Gillum, 42, was charged in a 21-count indictment alleging that he and longtime advisor turned co-defendant Sharon Lettman-Hicks, conspired to commit wire fraud by "unlawfully soliciting and obtaining funds" using "false and fraudulent promises," federal prosecutors said in a statement announcing the charges.
The Justice Department also alleged that Gillum and Lettman-Hicks diverted some of those funds to a communications company owned by Lettman-Hicks, who in turn "disguised" the funds as payroll payments and gave them to Gillum for personal use.
Gillum also faces an additional count of lying to the FBI. Prosecutors alleged that Gillum falsely told the investigating agents that he had not received anything from the undercover FBI agents posing as representatives of a company called Southern Pines. The indictment said that in actuality, the representatives had provided Gillum a hotel room, meals, a boat tour of New York Harbor, and tickets to the Broadway show "Hamilton."
Gillum surrendered to authorities on Wednesday and pleaded not guilty in a court appearance. Lettman-Hicks also pleaded not guilty.
Wednesday's indictment said the FBI first began investigating Gillum and Lettman-Hicks in 2016 when Gillum was still the mayor of Tallahassee. The indictment said the investigation initially began in 2015 as a public corruption investigation, which eventually expanded to encompass Gillum's activities.
Prosecutors alleged that Gillum and Lettman-Hicks used Gillum's influence as mayor and a rising Democratic Party star to solicit grant money under the pretense of campaigning or providing voter education services, when really they were using the money for their own "personal benefit."
Gillum, who lost the Florida election to Gov. Ron DeSantis by just 30,000 votes, has garnered national notoriety in the years since the loss, culminating in a 2020 sex scandal.
Gillum retreated from public life and entered rehab after the episode, citing issues of alcoholism and depression, after he was found drunk in a hotel room with a male escort who reportedly had overdosed on methamphetamine.
In an interview roughly six months after, Gillum came out as bisexual and suggested one day he might run for public office again.
In a statement on Wednesday, Gillum reiterated that he was not guilty and said the case against him "is not legal, it is political."
"There's been a target on my back ever since I was the mayor of Tallahassee," Gillum said. "They found nothing then, and I have full confidence that my legal team will prove my innocence now."
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