Former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum was once considered a rising star of the Democratic Party but has been on a decidedly downward trajectory since losing the 2018 Florida gubernatorial election by less than half a percentage point to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Now Gillum is facing the prospect of up to 20 or more years in federal prison as is currently on trial for multiple charges of wire fraud, the Conservative Brief reported.
In June 2022, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Florida announced that a 21-count indictment had been issued by a federal grand jury against former Mayor Gillum and an accomplice and co-conspirator, Sharon Janet Lettman-Hicks.
Between 2016 and 2019, according to the indictment, Gillum and Lettman-Hicks allegedly engaged in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud that involved "unlawfully soliciting and obtaining funds from various entities and individuals through false and fraudulent promises and representations that the funds would be used for a legitimate purpose."
The pair were accused of funneling a portion of donations received through a company owned by Lettman-Hicks that then diverted the funds to a personal account for Gillum.
In addition to the 19 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy, Gillum also separately faced a single charge of making false statements to federal investigators. If convicted, Gillum could face up to five years for the false statements, up to 20 years for the conspiracy, and up to 20 years for each count of wire fraud.
The Miami Herald reported that Gillum's trial began this week, just days after the indictment against him had been updated to drop two of the wire fraud counts and reduce the total to 17 counts of wire fraud plus the single counts of conspiracy and false statements.
If Gillum were to be convicted on all counts and ordered to serve the maximum sentence for each individual charge consecutively, he could be looking at as many as 365 years behind bars, but it is almost certain that his sentences on the multiple counts, if convicted, would run concurrently, or at the same time, meaning he would likely only serve 20 years or less.
The former mayor has denied the allegations and asserted that he has been targeted for political reasons -- an odd claim given that it is the Democrat-controlled Justice Department that is prosecuting him -- and his attorney, David Markus, said at the start of the trial, "This is our chance to show Andrew’s innocence, and we’re looking forward to it."
His denial is dubious, however, given that the charges for Gillum are part of a broader federal corruption probe that has already led to convictions and guilty pleas from other individuals.
According to the Herald, one aspect of the allegations against Gillum is that he received upwards of $57,000 into his personal account by way of fraudulent "bonuses" from the company owned by his top adviser and mentor, Lettman-Hicks, which had received $60,000 from Gillum's campaign in the immediate aftermath of the 2018 election loss.
As noted by the indictment, that money had been fraudulently obtained from donors under false pretenses as contributions toward legitimate political purposes when the funds were instead diverted for personal purposes.
As for the charge of making false statements, that stems from a 2016 trip that Gillum and his brother took to New York City with undercover FBI agents posing as real estate developers who bribed the then-mayor with paid-for hotel rooms, food and drinks, a boat ride around the harbor, and tickets to the Broadway show "Hamilton."
When asked about those "gifts" by the FBI in 2017, Gillum had initially denied ever receiving anything and then later tried to claim that his brother had purchased the Broadway show tickets, which obviously was untrue.