Former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat who narrowly lost the 2018 gubernatorial election to Ron DeSantis, was arrested Wednesday on charges of wire fraud, conspiracy and lying to federal agents.
A 21-count indictment, delivered by a grand jury this year and unsealed Wednesday, accused Gillum and a longtime adviser, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, of illegally soliciting and obtaining money from various entities “through false and fraudulent promises and representations that the funds would be used for a legitimate purpose.”
Gillum, a one-time rising star in national Democratic Party circles, turned himself in Wednesday morning and had his first appearance before a federal magistrate judge hours later.
Gillum, who was in handcuffs, and Lettman-Hicks, who was in a wheelchair, entered pleas of not guilty.
Gillum and Lettman-Hicks are charged with 19 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The wire-fraud and conspiracy charges carry penalties of up to 20 years in prison for each count.
The wire-fraud charges involve payments from a company owned by Lettman-Hicks to Gillum. The payments were allegedly made with funds that had been contributed to his political campaign committees. Gillum also was charged with one count of making false statements for allegedly lying to federal investigators in 2017.
Rumors about Gillum’s involvement in a city of Tallahassee public-corruption probe bubbled up in the months before the 2018 gubernatorial election, one of the nation’s most closely watched races that year.
But the Democrat steadfastly denied he was involved in any wrongdoing, a stance he maintained in a statement issued Wednesday.
“I have spent the last 20 years of my life in public service and continue to fight for the people. Every campaign I’ve run has been done with integrity. Make no mistake that this case is not legal, it is political. Throughout my career I have always stood up for the people of Florida and have spoken truth to power,” Gillum, 42, said. “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.”
The indictment, however, paints a damning portrait of Gillum and Lettman-Hicks and focuses on activities between 2016 and 2019, a time of Gillum’s political ascendancy.
Prosecutors accused Lettman-Hicks of illegally steering money to Gillum through her company, P&P Communications.
After announcing his candidacy for governor in early 2017, Gillum resigned from a job at the liberal-advocacy group People for the American Way, where he earned $122,500, in addition to his roughly $70,000 annual salary as mayor.
Gillum began receiving “regular payments” from P&P’s bank account “purporting to be either employee wages or contractor payments,” according to the indictment.
“Between 2016 and 2019, the defendants engaged in an on-going and evolving scheme to defraud by unlawfully soliciting and obtaining funds from various entities and individuals through false and fraudulent representations and promises that the funds would be used for a legitimate purpose, but instead using third parties to divert a portion of those funds to P&P, which Lettman-Hicks then fraudulently provided to Gillum for his personal use disguised as payroll payments,” the indictment said.
Lettman-Hicks made Gillum director and vice president of P&P, listing a salary of $10,000 a month.
“However, Gillum’s position at P&P was only a cover used to provide him funds that he lost when he resigned from Organization A,” the indictment said. People for the American Way was not identified by name in the document.
Gillum and Lettman-Hicks are also accused of defrauding two organizations of $50,000 in grant money and distributing the funds — disguised as salary payments — to Gillum.
And the indictment accuses Gillum and Lettman-Hicks of defrauding a person identified only as “Individual F” of $150,000 of a $250,000 contribution to Gillum’s gubernatorial political committees. Gillum solicited the money from the donor in May 2018.
Instead of depositing the funds into the committees’ accounts, the money was wired to a separate account “managed by an acquaintance whom Gillum and Lettman-Hicks could control,” the indictment said.
Lettman-Hicks provided only $100,000 of the contribution to Gillum’s Forward Florida committee and steered the rest of the funds to P&P “by arranging a fraudulent contract … to allegedly provide services on a voter education program regarding the gubernatorial candidates, knowing that these services would not be performed,” the 26-page indictment alleged.
The money was then disbursed to Lettman-Hicks and Gillum, according to the allegations.
Marc Elias, an attorney for Gillum, said Wednesday in a statement that the “government got it wrong.”
“The evidence in this case is clear and will show that Mr. Gillum is innocent of all charges,” Elias, a high-profile national elections attorney, said.
Prominent Orlando attorney John Morgan, a political rainmaker who contributed $250,000 to Gillum’s campaign in 2018, has threatened to sue Gillum for sitting on campaign cash in the weeks leading up to the 32,000-vote defeat to DeSantis. Morgan said he and his law firm contributed more than $1.7 million to the Democrat’s campaign effort.
When asked if he was the person identified as “Individual F” in the indictment, Morgan said, “I could be.”
“Anything is possible with that guy. He kept all of our money and lost by a fraction. He destroyed the Democratic Party in Florida. I quit because of him,” Morgan said in an email. “When you hire Marc (Elias) you are in deep doo doo.”
Gillum has largely been out of the spotlight after a 2020 incident in a South Beach hotel room, where a man reportedly overdosed. Gillum was in the room and a police report said he was “unable to communicate with officers due to his inebriated state.”
Three small bags of suspected crystal meth were found in the room, police said, but Gillum later denied doing drugs.
In March 2020, Gillum announced he was going into a rehabilitation facility because of alcohol abuse. He also said he we was bisexual.
News of Gillum’s arrest sent a shockwave through Tallahassee on Wednesday.
“Thirty thousand votes … In a state of more than 21 million people. DeSantis won by 0.4% That’s what saved Florida. Your vote matters,” DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw tweeted.
The indictment also accused Gillum and Lettman-Hicks of steering $60,000 for get-out-the-vote efforts from the campaign to her communications company and using some of the money to issue six $5,000 payments to Gillum, including four marked as “end of year bonus.”
Allegations date back to October 2016, when a person identified in the indictment as “Individual B” asked two undercover agents for a $25,000 contribution to a political committee supporting Gillum’s run for governor. One of the agents told the individual that, if he were to donate that much money, “he would want something very significant in return.”
“Individual B repeatedly stated that would not be a problem,” the indictment said.
The individual told the undercover agents to funnel the payment through P&P Communications, promising that Lettman-Hicks would be substantially involved in Gillum’s campaign, prosecutors alleged.
The long-running Tallahassee public-corruption probe also snared Scott Maddox, a former Tallahassee mayor and former Florida Democratic Party chairman. Maddox pleaded guilty in 2019 and was sent to federal prison.
In June 2017, Gillum voluntarily agreed to speak with FBI agents, but the indictment accused him of lying.
Gillum “did knowingly and willfully make materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations” during the FBI’s probe, one of the charges alleged.
–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida, with Ryan Dailey
Imagine if he was elected governor.
If he was Governor you wouldn’t hear about it until the next election.
Yep, FL dodged a catastrophe that election.
Still would have been better than Governor DUH.
He reminds me of Marion Barry (of Washington D.C. fame.)
Why because he’s black? How about he reminds you of most Politicians.
Gary R says
Not because he is black. At the end of a joint sting operation by FBI agents and District of Columbia police, Mayor Marion Barry is arrested and charged with drug possession and the use of crack, a crystalline form of cocaine.
Because of his propensity for letting his inner demons (and addictions) get the better of him.
Not because he is black, because he is a dishonest , craven, stupid bastard. Caught in a hotel room with drugs and 2 male prostitutes says it all. The latest is just icing on the cake. Would you vote for him or did you ?
And if you did, what does that say about you ?
You didn’t know anything about his personalM&M! You wish you were half the man that l am. “Your just a smidget, a small digit, forget it, quit it!”
I’m not weak enough to put trust in any man.
Jerry M says
No moral compass. None. We Floridians are so lucky he wasn’t elected governor. Those that voted for Gillum and Biden how are you feeling now about your vote?
This is the “leader” we would have in office, if we listened to the Dems. This is on top of his drugged up naked hotel party.
Donald J Trump says
The eal Shae is that he would have made a much better Governor than the A**hole we are now stuck with. DeSantis could have been good Governor if he hadn’t sold his soul to gain power. Corruption, self dealing and his mental health inducer by STD’s are the root of many of the decisions and actions of DeSantis.
Dennis C Rathsam says
Thank god the voters didnt make him our governor.
That sounds like individual number 1.
Percy's mother says
It’s Putin’s fault.
Waiting for all the prolific posters on this site to keep posting about how this man would’ve been a much better choice for governor than DeSantis.
Do we need to make sure that it’s not someone trying to prevent him from running again?
Dodged the Bullet says
Republicans Really Dodged a bullet with this crooked candidate. Just think, The guy he lost to may be our next president as Joe can’t even ride a bicycle or speak for himself without a teleprompter. His Side piece Kamala? Is widely hated. Not even the Dems want her anymore, she was simply a token to garner black/female & poverty votes. You have to be female or minority or better yet both to hold a job with the democrats.
David Schaefer says
What happened to Rep Gatez ???????
@Republican Party shitheads
We see you:
If you don’t know how to download a .pdf file, ask any school age child. Then have that child read it to you and explain what the words mean.
From the above: “…359 59. Social Security Privatization: We support privatization of the Social Security system…”
desantis, et. al., no doubt, have a search and replace (substituting floriduh for texas) version in their sweaty claws. The rest of us ought read and understand this shit too.
Education is when you read the fine print. Experience is what you get if you don’t.
— Pete Seeger
We must condemn the shenanigans of one of our politicians. The other side condones its own scum and will vote them in again. They love the Gaetz of Hell and his two Florida masters.
R. S. says
Money corrupts; but his platform was right, and I don’t regret voting for him. Besides that, I won’t judge anyone unless I’ve walked a mile in his/her shoes. I know that the present governor’s platform is wrong; I would still have preferred anyone with a heart for people to DeSantis.
I guess you think t-rump is a model citizen !!!!!
He got caught, Donald is still free. Some say we dodged a bullet, we got a missile. Prefer the bullet, a bullet can kill one or two people at the time, a missile can kill hundreds maybe thousands at the time. I voted for him perhaps other voters should have voted for him, the state will be in a better position than it is now. I will surely vote against DeSantis again. I hope I can vote in Nov. The Repub. controlled Supreme Court might say Bkacks don’t have a right to vote only white Repubs can vote.