Tennessee State Sen. Katrina Robinson charged with theft, embezzlement involving government programs and wire fraud

Updated: Jul. 29, 2020 at 5:09 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee State Sen. Katrina Robinson is facing federal charges of theft and embezzlement involving government programs and wire fraud, according to U.S. Attorney Michael Dunavant.

Robinson was elected to represent the 33rd District in Shelby County in 2018, and is the director of The Healthcare Institute (THI) -- a provider of educational and training programs for jobs in the health care field.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Healthcare Institute received over $2.2 million in federal grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) between 2015 and 2019. During that time, Robinson reportedly stole more than $600,000 from THI by compensating herself well above what was allowed under the terms of the HRSA grant and by using Institute funds for payments and purchases for her own personal benefit and that of her immediate family.

According to the complaint, some of the payments and purchases included a vehicle for her daughter, clothing, accessories and hair and beauty products; expenses related to her wedding and honeymoon and later legal fees for her divorce; payments on her personal debts, including credit cards, store charge cards, student loans and other personal loans; travel and entertainment for herself and her family; improvements to her personal residence; expenses related to a body aesthetics business she owned and a snow cone business operated by her children; and an event for her state senate campaign.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation visited Robinson’s home Tuesday morning. Agents previously executed search warrants at the southeast Shelby County home in February 2020.

Robinson spoke alongside her attorney and family members Wednesday afternoon just hours after the charges were announced.

“It is believed that if I were not in the position that I’m in, that if I did not champion the voices, the views and the faces that I represent, that I would not be in this moment right now with you today,” said Robinson. “And for that reason I want to reassure all my constituents, those in the 33rd Senatorial District, those citizens of Shelby County, of Memphis, Tennessee, that I am committed to continuing to serve with the same integrity, the same passion that I’ve demonstrated since you elected me to this office.”

Robinson could face a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, three years supervised release and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

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