NEWS TALK FLORIDA – The former chief of staff for ex-Florida U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown testified against his former boss in a Jacksonville courtroom Wednesday.
Ronnie Simmons told jurors how he, Brown, and others set up a phony scholarship for poor kids called “One Door for Education,” and then turned it into their own personal slush fund.
Smith testified how he routinely withdrew cash from the fund at the rate of $800 per transaction, because that was the limit that the bank allowed.
He said he either gave Brown the money directly, or deposited it into her personal bank account.
Simmons says skimming the money and the way it would be disbursed was all Brown’s idea.
Simmons, while the state’s star witness, himself will likely do prison time for his role, since he took part in the scheme and took some of the money.
But he agreed to testify against Brown in exchange for a lighter punishment.
Brown’s attorney maintains that it was Simmons who concocted the whole scheme and duped Brown, an aging lawmaker, into using the cash.
The fake charity once had $800 thousand, but prosecutors say they could only find $1200 actually handed out in scholarships.
Scott Declares Opioid State of Emergency
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a public health emergency in the face of a devastating opioid epidemic.
The declaration will open the state to more than $50 million in federal funds over the next two years for addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery services.
“(U.S. Health and Human Services) Secretary Dr. Tom Price awarded the Opioid State Targeted Response Grant to Florida and I want to thank the Trump Administration for their focus on this national epidemic,” Scott said in a statement.
“I have also directed State Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip to declare a public health emergency and issue a standing order for Naloxone in response to the opioid epidemic in Florida.”
The governor’s declaration comes months after Senate Democrats called on Scott to declare a state of emergency, saying opioid addiction affects all socio-economic levels.
Scott’s state of emergency could be a relief to Palm Beach and Manatee counties, where fentanyl and heroin addiction deaths are happening at an alarming rate.
Nearly 4,000 people died in Florida in 2015 from opioid overdoses.