Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

One Door Founder Admits 'Charity' Was Slush Fund For Corrine Brown


Carla Wiley, the founder and president of One Door for Education, testified under oath Monday that the Virginia charity was originally set up to help herself, but she was asked by former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown's chief of staff to work with the congresswoman on fundraisers.

Wiley admitted One Door paid over $300,000 for Brown events and that the charity only gave out one $1,000 scholarship to a student.

Brown, 70, is on trial on 22 fraud, conspiracy and tax charges, most connected to money that she helped raised for One Door, but prosecutors say funded events, parties, trips, shopping sprees, car repairs and even cash withdrawals for the former congresswoman and her inner circle.

Wiley pleaded guilty to fraud charges last year and agreed to testify against Brown, but said she was never promised a deal or lesser sentence if she testified.

Brown's former chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, who has also pleaded guilty to related charges, is scheduled to testify later this week.

Wiley said she was in a personal relationship with Simmons in July 2012 when he mentioned he needed a nonprofit to host a reception for Brown. She said she handed checks and the debit card for One Door over to Simmons, saying, "I trusted he would manage them correctly."

Wiley admitted she lied when the FBI originally interviewed her about One Door in January 2016.

“The main reason was fear," Wiley said. "I thought that if I lied and got them to leave the office, it would all go away.”

She said that night she had a four-way call with Simmons, Corrine Brown and the congresswoman's daughter, Shantrel.

Wiley admitted she did transfer some money from Open Door for personal use and to make some car payments.

Wiley was to be cross-examined later this morning.

Local attorney Rhonda People-Waters, part of a legal team following Brown’s trial for News4Jax, said the defense will hammer about the fact that they made plea deals with prosecutors to testify.

“That’s what her attorney James Smith has to hit on. He needs to come out and say you are enticed to give this type of testimony because of the benefit you are going to gain,” Peoples-Waters said. “Because of the plea bargain that you made with the government, you get your sentence, which would typically have been a number of years, will possibly be probation.”

A week into Brown’s trial, Peoples-Waters said she thinks the prosecutors made strides with donors taking the stand.

“They were the donors and gave the money and were unaware that it was going to benefit Corrine,” Peoples-Waters said.

The defense surprised a number of people by showing evidence that One Door for Education spent tens of thousands of dollars for children, including trips to China, but Peoples-Waters said it’s still well short of the money the fund is accused of mishandling.

“You still have a wide gap when you’re explaining possibly the other $600,000, possibly $700,000 that was utilized for the educational purpose,” Peoples-Waters said.

Peoples-Waters said despite everything that could happen with Wiley’s testimony, the most important testimony will eventually come from Brown herself. She told News4Jax that she thinks Brown could testify either late this week or early next week.