US charges Tennessee state senator with embezzlement

Federal prosecutors have charged a Tennessee state senator with the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants for personal expenses.

The federal complaint alleges Sen. Katrina Robinson (D) used more than $600,000 to pay for campaign expenses and her wedding, honeymoon and divorce.

Robinson allegedly embezzled the funds from grant money for a nurse training program at the vocational school she directs.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Healthcare Institute (THI), a for-profit college, received more than $2.2 million in Health and Human Services grants from 2015 to 2019. The funds were specifically earmarked for nurse assistant training and need-based scholarships, according to the complaint.

Robinson has been under investigation since 2016 following an anonymous report that she spent $550 of the grant money on a Louis Vuitton handbag.

Investigators analyzed her bank records and found she gave herself a $25,400 performance bonus, according to charging documents. Altogether, records indicated she received more than $169,000 extra in salary than the terms of the grant dictated.

“These expenses required consultation with, and prior approval from Health Resources and Services Administration, neither of which occurred,” the complaint said. “Further, according to Health Resources and Services Administration representatives, if approval had been sought for these items, it would not have been granted.”

Further investigation indicated several transfers of grant money to a separate bank account, where “legitimate expenditures for THI’s operations were commingled indiscriminately with personal expenditures for the benefit of Robinson and her immediate family,” according to the complaint.

Robinson could face up to two decades in prison and $250,000 in fines if convicted. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally’s (R) office has said he will ask the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate the matter, The New York Times reported.

“Senator Robinson’s work in the state legislature on behalf of her constituents is not in question here today,” the Senate Democratic Caucus said in a statement.

“Just like every other American, Senator Robinson deserves the presumption of innocence and due process under the law,” the statement added. “Her case should be resolved by a court of law, not by the court of public opinion.”