Andrew Gillum, the former Tallahassee mayor who lost to Ron DeSantis in the 2018 Florida gubernatorial race, was charged Wednesday with wire fraud.
Gillum, 42, and his longtime adviser, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, unlawfully solicited funds “through false and fraudulent promises and representations that the funds would be used for a legitimate purpose,” then diverted the money through a company owned by Lettman-Hicks, according to the Department of Justice.
She would then allegedly disguise the money as payroll payments and siphon them back to Gillum.
Both Gillum and Lettman-Hicks have been charged with 19 counts of wire fraud. Gillum is also charged with making false statements to FBI agents.
The Democrat lost a hotly contested and extremely tight race against DeSantis in 2018. With more than 8 million votes cast, DeSantis won by less than 33,000 votes, garnering 49.6% to Gillum’s 49.2%.
Gillum and his lawyer denied any wrongdoing.
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“I have spent the last 20 years of my life in public service and continue to fight for the people,” Gillum told the Daily News in a written statement.
“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. 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.”
Gillum, once believed to be an up-and-coming political star in Florida, faced a career-destroying scandal in March 2020 when the married father of three was found drunk in a hotel room with a man who may have overdosed on drugs.
Days later, he announced that he was entering rehab, calling the incident a “wake-up call.”
“I witnessed my father suffer from alcoholism and I know the damaging effects it can have when untreated. I also know that alcoholism is often a symptom of deeper struggles. I am committed to doing the personal work to heal fully and show up in the world as a more complete person,” he said.
“I now need to firmly focus on myself and my family. I will be stepping down from all public facing roles for the foreseeable future.”
In September 2020, after leaving rehab, he came out as bisexual.