Ex-chief of staff gave lawmaker charity checks

- Former U.S. Rep Corrine Brown's ex-chief of staff says he gave her a steady stream of blank checks and cash from the account of a purported scholarship fund for poor kids that federal prosecutors say she used to fund a lavish lifestyle, including parties in her own honor and shopping trips.

Elias "Ronnie" Simmons testified Wednesday in Brown's federal fraud trial in Jacksonville. Simmons has pleaded guilty to two related counts in a plea deal with the government.

Simmons said the charity One Door for Education started off as a way to raise money to fund a reception held during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation meetings in Washington DC.

Soon, however, federal prosecutors say it became a personal slush fund for the congresswoman, Simmons and the foundation's president, Carla Wiley. Wiley has also pleaded guilty.

Simmons testified that they used One Door for fundraising because, as a registered 501(c)3 organization, there were no limits on the amount it could raise, unlike political action committees or campaign fundraising accounts.

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Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown's ex-chief of staff is scheduled to testify at her fraud trial about what federal prosecutors say was a wide-ranging scheme to use hundreds of thousands in donations to a purported charity for lavish parties, trips and other personal uses.

Elias "Ronnie" Simmons is scheduled to take the stand Wednesday in federal court in Jacksonville, Florida. Simmons has pleaded guilty to related charges.

The 70-year-old Brown has pleaded not guilty, and her attorney has argued Simmons was the mastermind and took advantage of the aging lawmaker.

Federal investigators say Brown's One Door for Education Foundation, billed as a way to give scholarships to poor students, raised more than $800,000, but only gave out one $1,200 scholarship.

Prosecutors say the money was instead used for Brown and her associates' lavish lifestyles.

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