Tennessee Senator Katrina Robinson faces federal charges for embezzling $600K toward wedding, lavish lifestyle

Robinson was charged with theft, embezzlement and wire fraud after she was accused of stealing federal funds granted to The Healthcare Institute, a company directed by her, between 2015 to 2019


                            Tennessee Senator Katrina Robinson faces federal charges for embezzling $600K toward wedding, lavish lifestyle
Senator Katrina Robinson (Tennessee General Assembly)

Tennessee state senator Katrina Robinson was charged with swindling $600,000 in federal funds toward paying for personal expenses like her wedding and financing a lavish lifestyle, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.

Robinson was charged with theft, embezzlement and wire fraud after she was accused of stealing the money that was granted to The Healthcare Institute, a company directed by her, between 2015 to 2019. The Democrat from a Memphis district elected in 2018 also allegedly used the funds to pay for her honeymoon and pay legal fees for her divorce, according to the FBI. She apparently also used the stolen money to buy her daughter’s 2016 Jeep Renegade, for home renovations, buying a $500 Louis Vuitton handbag, and invested in her children's snow cone business. 

Furthermore, she used the funds via credit card payments for hair and beauty supplies, and improvements to her body aesthetics business. For her house, she allegedly bought a wrought iron front door priced at more than $5,000. According to the FBI, she also spent over $4,700 on makeup, video services, and a wedding bash as well as $5,000 on a trip to Jamaica. According to charging documents, the evidence against Robinson suggested the senator gave herself a $25,400 performance bonus, paid herself more than her official salary, and transferred $54,000 to a retirement fund. 

Despite being charged with embezzlement, Robinson released a statement saying she will serve in the state legislature “with the same integrity, the same passion that I’ve demonstrated since you’ve elected me to this office”. “It is believed that if I were not in the position that I’m in, that if I did not champion the voices, the views and the faces that I represent, that I would not be in this moment right now,” Robinson said.

Agents from the FBI told WMC Action News 5 that they visited the Shelby County home of Robinson on Tuesday morning but not to conduct a search warrant. Such a warrant was executed for Robinson's home back in February 2020. Agents were also seen removing boxes from The Healthcare Institute at the time. 

According to the website for The Healthcare Institute, Robinson received a $1.6 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services for its Educate to Empower Program which educates Certified Nursing Assistants into the "Geriatrics Workforce." Between 2015 and 2019, the school had received more than $2 million in grants from the Department of Health and Human Services. Compared to the 258 students that the institute had enrolled in the 2017-2018 school year, it only had 26 students in the 2018-2019 school year. 

Robinson, 39, faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted of the charges of theft and embezzlement from government funds. Instead of funding the nurse training program at the vocational school, more than $600,000 was reportedly siphoned off to add to her salary. Robinson is a registered nurse herself who founded the school in 2015, according to its website.

FBI special agent Matthew Pruitt said federal funds which were deposited into the school's bank account for its administrational use ''commingled indiscriminately with personal expenditure for the benefit of Robinson and her immediate family.''

In a statement, the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus said, "Senator Robinson's work in the state legislature on behalf of her constituents is not in question here today. Just like every other American, Senator Robinson deserves the presumption of innocence and due process under the law." It added, "Her case should be resolved by a court of law, not by the court of public opinion."

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