ATLANTA — Georgia state Rep. Tyrone Brooks has been charged in a 30-count federal grand jury indictment with mail fraud, wire fraud and filing false tax returns, U.S. District Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said Thursday.
The allegations involve the Atlanta Democrat’s relationship with Universal Humanities, a charity he founded in 1990, and the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials. The organization is made up of state and local lawmakers, and Brooks was elected president of the group in 1993.
The indictment alleges that Brooks, 67, solicited more than $1 million in contributions from the mid-1990s to 2012 from individuals and corporate donors to fight illiteracy in underserved communities and other causes.
Authorities say 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.
When reached by phone, Brooks told The Associated Press that he was “not speaking about anything until I talk to my lawyer.”
A call to Brooks’ attorney was not immediately returned Thursday afternoon.
Brooks is accused of raising more than $780,000 for Universal Humanities and telling donors the money was being used to hire retired teachers as educational consultants, Yates said.
“In reality, there was no staff, no workshops. There was no mentoring or tutoring of students going on. Representative Brooks never hired any teachers or administrators as educational consultants,” she said. People who were listed as executives of the group were unaware that Brooks had listed them on the board of directors.
“In fact, most of them had never even heard of Universal Humanities,” Yates said.
The indictment also charges Brooks with funneling about $300,000 in donations for the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials to a second 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, Yates said.
Corporate donors included Coca-Cola Co., Georgia Power and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Yates said.
“It is hard to believe these allegations and we should all wait until they are proven or disproved,” said GABEO vice president Elaine Lucas, who serves on the Macon City Council. “A person is innocent until proven guilty. Tyrone Brooks has earned our respect and support.”
Aside from the misappropriations, Brooks is accused of underreporting his income to the IRS, saying he earned about $35,000 a year. The indictment charges Brooks with filing fraudulent returns between 2008 and 2011.
The statute of limitations has run out on any fraudulent returns that may have been filed before then, Yates said.
Investigators could not disclose how authorities found out about the misappropriated funds. Brooks will not be arrested but will be summoned to court at a later date, Yates said. It’s unclear when he’ll be arraigned.