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The Latest: Former lawmaker blames charity theft on aide

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Latest on former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown’s fraud trial (all times local):

5 p.m.

Facing nearly two dozen federal fraud and conspiracy charges, former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida took the stand in her own defense. She said she was kept in the dark while her ex-chief of staff siphoned thousands of dollars from what prosecutors say was a sham charity.

Brown said Thursday that she was betrayed by Elias “Ronnie” Simmons, her former top aide.

Brown said tearfully that she “loved Ronnie Simmons like a son” and that she never wanted to see him end up in jail.

Federal prosecutors want Brown to go to jail for a scheme to raise more than $800,000 for One Door for Education Foundation under the guise that the money would go to help poor kids with scholarships. Prosecutors say the charity gave only $1,200 out in scholarships while Brown, Simmons and foundation president Carla Wiley spent funds to maintain their lavish lifestyles.

Brown claims Simmons stole money and placed it in her bank accounts without her knowledge.

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Ex-U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown is scheduled to testify in her own defense on charges that she used a charity meant to give scholarships to poor students as a personal slush fund.

Brown’s testimony was scheduled Thursday afternoon, just a few hours after federal prosecutors rested their case.

Prosecutors say Brown ordered her former chief of staff, Elias “Ronnie” Simmons, to divert money from the One Door for Education Foundation and to deposit it into her personal bank account.

She is accused of using the funds to support a lavish lifestyle including parties in her honor and attending an NFL game in a luxury box and a Beyonce concert.

Brown’s attorney has said Simmons was the mastermind of the scheme, and took One Door money without the former congresswoman’s knowledge.

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