Former Democratic Party rising star Andrew Gillum, who came within a half percentage point of being elected Florida governor in 2018, was arrested Wednesday on federal charges including wire fraud. Gillum, 42, denied the allegations, which he described as politically motivated. He pleaded not guilty in a court appearance in Tallahassee, and was released, reports the Wall Street Journal. It was the latest bout of trouble for the former Tallahassee mayor, who galvanized liberal voters and was narrowly defeated in his gubernatorial bid by Republican Ron DeSantis. The 21-count indictment relates to Gillum’s financial dealings with political consultant Sharon Lettman-Hicks, 53, mostly before the 2018 vote. The two illegally solicited and obtained funds from various people and entities “through false and fraudulent promises and representations that the funds would be used for a legitimate purpose,” according to the Justice Department. Lettman-Hicks was also indicted.
The indictment says the two defendants secured contributions from donors that were supposedly for purposes such as Gillum’s campaign. The defendants used third parties to divert a portion of the funds to a company owned by Lettman-Hicks. She then fraudulently provided the funds, which were disguised as payroll payments, to Gillum for his personal use. In 2017 and 2018, he was paid at first about $3,500, and later $5,000, in twice-monthly checks. The payments were aimed at making up for a salary he lost when he began actively campaigning for governor and resigned from a position with an organization. Gillum also made false statements to the FBI in 2017 when the agency was investigating public corruption in Tallahassee. Among other things, the indictment said, he wrongly denied that he received offers of campaign contributions from a company used by an undercover FBI agent posing as a developer. Gillum also failed to disclose gifts he received from undercover FBI agents on a 2016 trip to New York City, including a hotel stay, a boat ride and a ticket to the Broadway show “Hamilton.”