TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum has been formally indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and making false statements.
Gillum, 42, who ran for governor as a Democrat and lost to Ron DeSantis in 2018, denied the allegations and said there is a "target on my back."
According to federal court documents, between 2016 and 2019, Gillum and Sharon Janet Lettman-Hicks, 53, conspired to commit wire fraud by illegally soliciting and getting funds from various people by making "false and fraudulent promises" that the money would be used for a "legitimate purpose."
The documents allege Lettman-Hicks then fraudulently disguised the funds as payroll payments "to Gillum for his personal use."
Gillum and Lettman-Hicks are charged with 19 counts of wire fraud. Gillum is also charged with making false statements to FBI agents. He faces a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison, if convicted.
Gillum released the following statement Wednesday about the federal grand jury indictment:
"I have spent the last 20 years of my life in public service and continue to fight for the people. Every campaign I've run has been done with integrity. Make no mistake that this case is not legal, it is political. Throughout my career I have always stood up for the people of Florida and have spoken truth to power. 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."
Gillum and Lettman-Hicks made their first appearance in federal court Wednesday, pleading not guilty to all charges and released on their own recognizance.
Neither Gillum nor his attorney commented on their way out.
“You're breaking news to me. I hadn't heard that," said Democratic National Committee Chair Jamie Harrison.
News of the indictment came as a surprise to some, like Harrison.
“I know Andrew. You know, consider him a friend, and if that is the case it's sad to hear." Harrison said.
The trial is set for August 16 of this year. Gillum’s attorney requested a jury be empaneled.
The Democrats will be forbidden from leaving the northern district without permission until then.
Gillum is a well-known Democrat in the state and Republicans haven’t been delicate with comments on this indictment.
The RNC’s communications director said in a statement that "Floridians made the right decision in 2018 and will do so again in 2022 by re-electing Governor DeSantis."
This is not the first controversy Gillum has faced since losing to DeSantis in 2018.
Gillum in 2020 announced he was entering a rehabilitation facility, saying he fell into alcohol abuse after losing his bid for governor.
That announcement came just days after Gillum was named in a March 13, 2020 police report that said he was "inebriated" and initially unresponsive in a hotel room at the Mondrian South Beach, where authorities found him with a male companion and bags of suspected crystal methamphetamine.
Gillum was not arrested or charged in that case.