ATLANTA — Georgia state Rep. Tyrone Brooks pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of filing a false tax document and no contest to five counts of mail and wire fraud, according to a report in the Savannah Morning News.
The Atlanta Democrat, who resigned his seat earlier Thursday, entered his plea during a hearing in federal court.
Brooks, who was elected in 1981, was indicted in May 2013 on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and filing false tax returns. Prosecutors accused Brooks of misappropriating funds meant for charity and using the money to pay personal and family expenses.
The indictment alleged that Brooks solicited more than $1 million in contributions from the mid-1990s to 2012 from individuals and corporate donors that he said would be used to fight illiteracy in underserved communities and for other causes.
Brooks’ attorney, Roy Barnes, said the ex-lawmaker always maintained “there was never intent to deceive.”
The allegations involve the Atlanta Democrat’s relationship with Universal Humanities, a tax-exempt charitable organization he founded in 1990, and the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, which is made up of state and local lawmakers. Brooks was elected president of the group in the early 1990s.
Authorities said Brooks, who was first elected to the General Assembly in 1981, used the money for personal and family expenses, ranging from home repairs to credit card bills.
Brooks is accused of raising about $800,000 for Universal Humanities and initially telling donors it was for literacy programs in Georgia and later saying the program had been so successful that the organization wanted to expand it to other southeastern states.
The indictment also charges Brooks with funneling about $300,000 in donations for the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials to a second secret bank account that he established. Brooks told donors the money was being used to fund group meetings, crime prevention programs, voter registration initiatives, felon rehabilitation programs and literacy programs, the indictment said.
Corporate donors included Coca-Cola Co., Georgia Pacific, Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Aside from the misappropriations, Brooks was accused of underreporting his income to the federal government, saying he earned about $35,000 a year. The indictment charged Brooks with filing fraudulent returns between 2008 and 2011.
Savannah Morning News