Robinson trial prosecutors attempt to prove fraud in week one – Tennessee Lookout


The first week of State Senator Katrina Robinson’s trial ended Friday afternoon as U.S. district attorneys continued their efforts to build a case for 17 counts of embezzlement and wire fraud.

The Healthcare Institute, a Robinson-owned Memphis company, received a federal grant from the Department of Health and Human Services in June 2015. The multi-year commitment of $ 2.2 million has supported Geriatric Nursing programs at THI for low income students. The United States, the plaintiff in the case, has spent much of its time this week taking a detailed history of Robinson’s financial history between 2015 and 2020 to link the grant money from THI and Robinson’s personal financial choices.

Testimonies earlier in the week focused on the mix of grant funds and business assets, various bank accounts held by THI and Robinson, and the terms of the grant awarded to THI and overseen by Robinson.

Prosecutors on Friday called people involved in various transactions with Robinson between 2015 and 2020. These witnesses included Imran Siddiqui who sold Robinson a wrought-iron gate, contractor Jacques Gardner who did residential painting and l mold removal for Robinson, Nikki Chaffen, a cosmetics professional hired. for Robinson’s wedding in 2016, and Lance Black at Imports of Memphis, who bought a 2008 Lexus from Robinson in 2017. These transactions ranged from Chaffen’s $ 1,100 wedding fee to just over $ 20,000 for a Jeep purchased by THI and signed by Robinson.

The defense stressed that none of these transactions involved Robinson portraying himself in a false light or THI, a key element of embezzlement and fraud. Defense attorneys asked prosecution witnesses if they knew if the expenses were paid with federal grant money, each answer being no.

Lauren Stamps, who oversees customer services at the Memphis Healthcare Federal Credit Union, where Robinson has a personal checking and savings account, was the only witness to testify on Friday about the direct flow of money from THI to Robinson. . Between 2016 and 2020, Robinson received a bi-weekly direct deposit from THI, where she was employed as CEO and sole proprietor. Robinson’s bi-weekly salary increased from approximately $ 3,300 in 2017 to $ 5,500 in 2019, and she received annual performance bonuses between $ 20,000 and $ 30,000 during the same period.

Much of the case hinges on the chain of custody of these funds and Robinson’s intentional misrepresentation of their use, both essential to prove embezzlement and wire fraud.

Two FBI agents testified for the United States about conducting simultaneous raids on Robinson’s, Celebrity Body Studio, and The Healthcare Institute’s businesses on February 21, 2020. Agent Marcus Vance shared a detailed account of the raid on her team on Celebrity Body Studio, where her team grabbed documents, computers, a television, and at least one office printer. The lawyers drew the jury’s attention to three packages addressed to the Healthcare Institute, which is in a separate commercial space, but in the same commercial space as Celebrity Body Studio. Defense cross-examination briefly questioned Vance, confirming that he did not know what was in the boxes or whether they were purchased with federal grant money.

Agent Stephen Lies described leading a team of nearly a dozen agents around the Healthcare Institute, acting on a warrant that gave the FBI authority to seize any documents related to the company’s finances or when registering students. Lies presented the jury with several photos showing classrooms, offices, filing cabinets and replicas of THI doctor’s offices intended for the training of nursing students, testifying to the seizure of binders, files, files , computers and electronic tablets.

Friday ended with negotiations between lawyers for both sides over the number of documents U.S. district attorneys plan to produce as evidence. Prosecutors wish to seize any documentation relating to any purchase Robinson made near or greater than $ 1,000 between 2015 and 2020, specifically naming transactions with Amazon, Uber, Best Buy, American Airlines, TJ Maxx and Dillard’s. Robinson’s lawyers argue that all of this documentation is unnecessary and a distraction for the jury, which would be presented with thousands of unrelated pages. The parties did not reach a final agreement.

Much of the case hinges on the chain of custody of these funds and Robinson’s intentional misrepresentation of their use, both essential to prove embezzlement and wire fraud.

Federal attorneys have indicated that an accountant testifying on Monday will likely take all day as he will speak about THI’s business practices, its handling of grants and the increase in Robinson’s compensation. If lawyers stick to the schedule, the plaintiff expects his case to be closed on Thursday, when the defense will begin calling witnesses.

Robinson named racism as a role in the trial and she is defending herself before a jury which includes six black women out of sixteen urors.

Just before Friday’s mid-morning break, Judge Sheryl Lipman called an audience member to reprimand her for allegedly displaying her shirt, which read “Trust Black Women”, to the jury. Shortly after the court returned from the break, the individual was escorted out of the courtroom by security and did not return.


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