I’ve known State Rep. Tyrone Brooks for years. He’s been indicted by a federal grand jury on 30 counts. He told me a couple of months ago when it was first revealed he was under investigagtion, he’s innocent. I had one seasoned reporter tell me they’d be “heartbroken if it was true.”
He is the highest ranking elected official to be indicted in a federal court since former Mayor Bill Campbell of Atlanta.
A federal grand jury has indicted Georgia state Rep. Tyrone Brooks Sr. on 30 counts, including mail, wire and tax fraud charges.
Brooks, 67, is accused of soliciting contributions from individual and corporate donors to combat illiteracy, but then using the money to pay personal expenses for himself and his family.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne informed Brooks of the indictment.
“I will do a news conference on the Moore’s Ford Bridge, but not today. Can’t do it today. I haven’t even talked to my lawyer yet so I don’t have any comment right now.”
When asked if he broke the law, Brooks told Winne, “Not to my knowledge. I don’t want to discuss it right now. I want to discuss it on the Moore’s Ford Bridge. That’s what this is all about.”
Brooks has maintained the investigation is backlash to his investigation into the lynching of two African-American couples on the Walton County bridge in 1946. He claims an FBI cover-up because there were never any arrests.
U.S. Attorney Sally Yates said, “Sadly, by diverting these funds to his own use, Rep. Brooks deprived those most in need of critical assistance.”
The indictment states that Brooks used a charity, Universal Humanities Inc., from at least 1995 through 2012 to raise more than $780,000. Donors included the Coca-Cola Co., Georgia-Pacific and Northside Hospital, prosecutors said. Yates said Brooks falsely said Universal Humanities had established literacy programs and was conducting workshops and tutoring students.
Prosecutors said that Brooks did not use the donations to promote literacy in Georgia and did not retain a staff, office space, fund workshops or hire instructors. Instead Brooks used the money to pay personal expenses for himself and members of his family, including home repairs, furniture, lawn service, life insurance, entertainment, personal credit cards, utility bills, food, clothing, dry cleaning, electronic equipment, jewelry and payments on personal loans.
Brooks is also accused of diverting charitable donations he solicited on behalf of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials and also used that money for personal and family expenses. Between 2002 and 2012, businesses and civic groups contributed nearly $300,000 to Brooks, which he deposited in a secret account, the indictment states.
“Mr. Brooks exploited two charitable organizations for his own personal financial gain which came at the expense of the intended beneficiaries of the charitable donations,” said Veronica Hyman-Pillot, IRS special agent in charge.
“Today’s federal grand jury indictment reflects the commitment of the FBI and its law enforcement partners to follow the facts of these investigations wherever they lead us,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Mark Giuliano said in a release.
The indictment states Brooks deposited contributions into a bank account for Universal Humanities, then transferred the funds into a personal account. The indictment states that Universal Humanities never had a functioning board of directors.
Brooks will be arraigned at a later date.
The governor’s office told Channel 2′s Lori Geary that Brooks could be suspended.
According to the state constitution, 14 days after the governor receives the indictment he can convene a three person panel to review the case. The panel consists of the state attorney general, a senator and a state representative. If the panel determins the indictment adversley affects the administration or the office it can recommend suspension. The governor has the final decision. The seat would remain open until the next regularly occuring election and the suspended member continues to receive pay.
Stay with Channel 2 Action News for continuing coverage of this indictment.