Andrew Gillum, an out bisexual man who was the 2018 Democratic nominee in the race for Florida governor, has been indicted on 21 counts, including charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, and making false statements.
On Wednesday, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against Gillum, a former mayor of Tallahassee, and a longtime associate and fellow Tallahassee resident, Sharon Lettman-Hicks.
According to the indictment, between 2016 and 2019, Gillum and Lettman-Hicks “engaged in an on-going and evolving scheme to defraud by unlawfully soliciting and obtaining funds from various entities and individuals through false and fraudulent representations and promises that the funds would be used for a legitimate purpose.”
Gillum and Lettman-Hicks then allegedly used third parties to divert a portion of those funds to P&P, a communications company owned by Lettman-Hicks, who then provided the funds, disguised as payroll payments, to Gillum for his personal use.
Both defendants have been charged with 19 counts of wire fraud, and Gillum is also charged with making false statements to FBI agents investigating the suspected fraud, according to a press release for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida.
If convicted of the charges against them, Gillum and Lettman-Hicks could face up to 20 years in prison for the conspiracy charge, and 20 years for wire fraud. Gillum could also face up to 5 years in prison for making false statements to a law enforcement officer.
The charges against Gillum stem from a long-running FBI investigation looking into allegations of public corruption that began in 2015, when Gillum was mayor of Tallahassee.
In early 2016, Gillum and two unnamed associates solicited campaign contributions from two undercover agents, with the funds ostensibly going to benefit Gillum’s newly formed “Forward Florida” political action committee, the stated mission of which was to grow the grassroots progressive movement in Florida, in the hope of electing more Democrats to public office.
According to the indictment, the associates promised that if the undercover agents donated to Gillum’s campaign, they would be given government contracts for various development projects in the city. They also promised to funnel the contributions through various channels, including through Lettman-Hicks’ P&P Communications firm, to avoid having to legally report the contributions.
According to the indictment, when Gillum voluntarily spoke to FBI agents in 2017, he “falsely represented” that the undercover agents never offered him anything and that he stopped communicating with them after they tried to link their campaign contributions to his support for potential development projects.
When Gillum announced his intention to run for governor, he resigned from his position with People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group whose Tallahassee office was leased from Lettman-Hicks. In resigning, Gillum lost his annual $122,500 per year salary, and Lettman-Hicks lost $3,000 in monthly rent. (Gillum was also paid $70,500 a year as mayor.)
Gillum then became an employee of P&P Communications, where he was given a monthly salary of $10,000. Prosecutors allege in the indictment that Lettman-Hicks’ decision to hire Gillum was “only a cover used provide him funds that he lost” after resigning from his position at People for the American Way.
Gillum and Lettman-Hicks solicited $50,000 in grant funding from two unnamed organizations, claiming the money would be used for the Campaign to Defend Local Solutions, an initiative started by Gillum to fight state efforts to pre-empt local governments’ power. But instead, the money was filtered through P&P Communications to pay Gillum’s salary.
In May 2018, Gillum and Lettman-Hicks allegedly defrauded an unnamed campaign donor who had contributed $250,000 to Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign, sending the money to an intermediary, and moving only $100,000 into the Forward Florida PAC account.
Lettman-Hicks then allegedly arranged a fraudulent contract with an organization to provide services related to a “voter education” program, knowing the services would not be performed. Under the contract, P&P Communications received $132,500 of the original $250,000 donation, with the money going to enrich Lettman-Hicks and Gillum.
In November 2018, $130,000 from the Gillum for Governor campaign had been earmarked for “Get Out the Vote” efforts. But the indictment charges that $60,000 went to P&P Communications and was used to pay Gillum $20,000 in “bonus” payments from Nov. 20 to 29. That money was later listed falsely in Gillum’s campaign finance report as a reimbursement for “Get Out the Vote Canvassing.”
Gillum, who surrendered to federal authorities in Tallahassee, pleaded not guilty to the charges against him during a court appearance on Wednesday afternoon.
In a statement, Gillum said he had run all of his political campaigns “with integrity,” casting the charges as a politically-motivated attack.
“Make no mistake that this case is not legal, it is political,” he said. “There’s been a target on my back ever since I was the mayor of Tallahassee. They found nothing then, and I have full confidence that my legal team will prove my innocence now.”
Lettman-Hicks, who is the board chair and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition, and is running as a Democrat for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives, also appeared in court on Wednesday and pleaded not guilty. She declined to comment on the charges against her.
Wednesday’s indictment marks yet another instance where Gillum has found himself in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. In March 2020, he was found in a South Beach hotel room with two men, including a 30-year-old gay escort who had allegedly overdosed on crystal meth, during what is believed to have been a sex party. Police claimed Gillum was too intoxicated to answer questions when they arrived on the scene.
The escort survived, and police eventually decided not to bring any charges against Gillum related to the hotel room overdose.
Gillum then entered a rehabilitation program for alcohol addiction and withdrew from public life, asking for privacy for himself and his family.
After leaving rehab, Gillum later came out as bisexual in an interview with journalist Tamron Hall as part of her self-titled talk show. During that interview, he was forced to disclose details about his struggles with alcohol, the depression he experienced after losing the governor’s race, and his infidelity to his wife, as well as his desire to hide his addiction and sexual orientation from her.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!