Former state Rep. Tyrone Brooks was ordered on Thursday to pay $250,000 in restitution for diverting charitable donations to his personal use.
Brooks, a longtime civil rights leader and legislator, pleaded guilty last year to one count of tax fraud and no contest to five counts of mail and wire fraud. In November, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg sentenced him to a year and a day in prison — he is to report to the federal penitentiary in Atlanta on Feb. 16 — but deferred the decision on how much restitution he should pay.
Totenberg announced that decision on Thursday, according to WGCL-TV.
For almost 20 years, Brooks diverted to his personal bank account almost $1 million in contributions that a labor union and five major corporations gave for a literacy program Brooks launched. He repeatedly said the program was in place, successful and even expanding beyond Georgia.
Early records suggest that Brooks intended to run a literacy program but never got it started, Judge Totenberg said in November. She said he didn’t get rich, as is common in fraud cases, but was using the money for daily expenses: gas, paying bills and food. Totenberg singled out an expense he claimed several times — meals at Captain D’s — as proof that he was not living lavishly.
The fraud came about as Brooks was juggling bills and trying to survive on his legislative salary, $17,300 a year plus $4,800 for expenses, Totenberg said.
Also, when Brooks was president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, he deposited in a secret account money donated for GABEO’s voter education, voter registration and anti-violence programs and then moved those funds to his personal account. GABEO members did not know of the second account under the organization’s name.
Brooks had been a civil rights activist since his teens and a state lawmaker since 1981. As a lawmaker, Brooks helped lead the long struggle to remove the Confederate battle emblem from Georgia’s state flag. He also prodded federal authorities to reopen an investigation into an infamous 1946 lynching of four people at Moore’s Ford in Walton County.