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Georgia State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, Sr., of Atlanta, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he misappropriated almost $1 million in charitable funds from Universal Humanities, a charity he founded in 1990, and the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials (GABEO), according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
U.S. Attorney Sally Yates expressed remorse about Brooks’s indictment in a statement sent to media outlets including the Atlanta Daily World.
“This is a disappointing day,” her statement read, “Representative Brooks has done much good in his life, both as a state legislator and civil rights leader. But the indictment charges that over many years, Representative Brooks misappropriated nearly one million dollars in charitable donations intended to provide literacy training in underserved communities, and from GABEO – the organization for which he has served as president since 1993. Sadly, by diverting these funds to his own use, Representative Brooks deprived those most in need of critical assistance.”
Yates told reporters on May 23 that Brooks used contributions from Coca-Cola, Georgia Power, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and others to pay for home repairs, dry cleaning, entertainment, life insurance and other personal uses.
Brooks was charged by a federal grand jury in a 30-count indictment that includes charges of mail, wire and tax fraud. The indictment charges that, from the mid-1990s through 2012, Brooks solicited contributions from individuals and corporate donors to combat illiteracy and fund other charitable causes, but then used the money to pay personal expenses for himself and his family. The indictment was returned today, and Brooks will appear for arraignment on a date set by the Court.
“While the FBI continues to make public corruption matters its number one priority within its criminal branch, we do so with a clear commitment to the rule of law,” Mark F. Giuliano, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office. “Today’s federal grand jury indictment reflects the commitment of the FBI and its law enforcement partners to follow the facts of these investigations wherever they lead us.”
The IRS also played a role in investigating Brooks.
“Mr. Brooks exploited two charitable organizations for his own personal financial gain which came at the expense of the intended beneficiaries of the charitable donations. IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to investigating individuals who use charitable organizations for their personal gain,” said Veronica Hyman-Pillot, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation. “Mr. Brooks defrauded not only the donors but also the American taxpayer by evading his tax obligations. Tax compliance should and must be equally shared among all Americans.”
Below is the full detail of the charges facing Brooks from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
According to the Indictment:
Universal Humanities Scheme
The indictment charges two fraud schemes, the first involving a tax-exempt charity, Universal Humanities, Inc., that Brooks established in the early 1990s. From at least 1995 through 2012, Brooks solicited contributions for Universal Humanities from corporate and individual donors purportedly to combat illiteracy in disadvantaged communities in Georgia and across the southeastern United States, eventually raising more than $780,000. Donors included the Coca-Cola Company ($400,000), Georgia Pacific Company ($140,000), Northside Hospital ($240,000), and others who gave smaller amounts. Brooks made specific false representations in his written solicitations about the work that Universal Humanities was doing to combat illiteracy and how the donated funds would be used, claiming that Universal Humanities had established literacy programs and was conducting workshops and tutoring and mentoring students. He also falsely claimed that Universal Humanities utilized a staff and operated under the direction of a board of directors.
The indictment alleges that in reality, Brooks did not use the donations to promote and address literacy in Georgia or elsewhere, or to retain a staff, occupy office space, fund workshops, hire instructors, or conduct programs attended by students. Instead, Brooks used the money to pay personal expenses for himself and members of his family, including home repairs, furniture, lawn service, life insurance, entertainment, personal credit card expenses, utility bills, food and clothing, dry cleaning, electronic equipment, jewelry, and payments on personal loans, among other personal expenses.
Brooks generally accomplished the diversion of funds by depositing the solicited donations into a bank account he established in the name of Universal Humanities, then almost immediately transferring the funds to a personal account, from which he paid personal expenses. At times, Brooks paid personal expenses directly from the Universal Humanities account.