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Testimony in Tennessee senator’s embezzlement trial focuses on healthcare institute enrollment

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 9:39 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The focus has shifted in the federal trial against Tennessee State Senator Katrina Robinson.

Robinson is charged with more than a dozen counts of theft, embezzlement, and wire fraud.

The jury heard from four witnesses Wednesday, but much of the testimony was given by Richard Haines, a special agent with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. He testified for several hours.

The Office of the Inspector General was the first agency to launch an investigation against Robinson and The Healthcare Institute (THI).

Haines said he combed through nearly 40,000 to 50,000 pages of student documents and search warrant material.

Over the course of his investigation, he said he found many discrepancies in annual performance reports by THI. Discrepancies include students who were listed as having graduated from the program, but in actuality had not.

Haines also said he found students listed on the report who received scholarship money for tuition by the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) but found that the education was paid for through another source.

Each student at THI has a student ID number that is unique to the student and contains some digits from the student’s social security number. Haines said when looking through reports, he found digits that were “so close in nature that they appeared to be fictitious.”

Meanwhile, during the cross-examination, the defense pointed out discrepancies in Haines’ testimony, including at least five students that did attend THI that Haines said he couldn’t find in report records.

Haines admitted to his mistake and said at the time of going through documents, he wasn’t able to identify those specific students based on their student ID numbers.

The jury also heard from a former employee at THI who actually helped Robinson complete the reports in question.

Former employee, Ieshia Wesley, worked for THI from 2017 to 2019 and assisted Robinson in completing the annual performance reports.

She testified that the annual report was a tedious process that took several weeks to complete.

Wesley said Robinson told her to “make sure this report is done correctly and there are no mistakes in this report.” She said she entered information electronically based on information from QuickBooks, another internal data system.

Wesley said she then sent the report to Robinson or another employee for review. She also testified she didn’t know what happened to the reports after they were submitted to Robinson.

The jury also heard from several former students from THI who all listed on the annual report as having received the THI scholarship but testified in court that they did not.

Court has adjourned for the day and the prosecution is expected to rest Thursday.

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