Sen. Robinson faces second wave of federal charges

The Tennessee State Capitol with gates locked.
The Tennessee State Capitol with gates locked. (Photo: John Partipilo)

State Sen. Katrina Robinson, already under federal indictment, is charged in a new case with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering, according to a federal criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday.

State Sen. Katrina Robinson, D-Memphis (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)
State Sen. Katrina Robinson, D-Memphis (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)

Robinson, 40, a Memphis Democrat, was accused in 2020 of stealing $600,000 from her federally-funded business to pay for a lavish lifestyle. In this second round of charges, federal prosecutors say she and two other women, Katie Ayers, 59, and Brooke Boudreaux, 32, allegedly conspired to use her business, The Healthcare Institute, to defraud a victim out of $14,470.

While investigating the initial case of embezzlement, fraud and theft, the FBI uncovered a scheme in which Robinson and the other defendants allegedly persuaded the victim that Boudreaux needed the money for tuition and expenses to attend the institute. The person agreed and gave $14,470 to the school, but the investigation found that Boudreaux was never enrolled at the institute and the conspirators split the money for their “personal benefit and unjust enrichment,” according to a statement released by federal authorities.

If convicted, they could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

Robinson’s attorney, Kamilah White, reportedly said in early 2020 her client wants to tell her side of the story and eventually will be vindicated.

Senate Democratic Caucus spokesman Brandon Puttbrese directed comments to her attorney.

“It’s clear that Sen. Robinson’s work in the state Legislature on behalf of her constituents is not in question here today. Just like every other American, Sen. Robinson deserves the presumption of innocence and due process under the law. Her case should be resolved by a court of law, not the court of public opinion,” Puttbrese said in a statement.

The indictment announced Tuesday by U.S. Attorney Michael Dunavant says The Healthcare Institute, which Robinson founded in 2015 to train certified nursing assistants, phlebotomists and licensed practical nurses, received more than $10,000 in federal funds annually between 2015 and 2019 and that Robinson stole funds and intentionally misapplied them for personal use. The case is pending in U.S. District Court in Memphis.

Robinson said last year she would fight the initial indictment on fraud, embezzlement and theft charges and blamed her plight on outspoken political beliefs. 

Federal authorities accuse her of spending part of federal grants totaling $2.2 million on wedding and honeymoon expenses and then legal fees for a divorce, credit card payments and student loans, travel and entertainment, improvements to her home, expenses for a body aesthetics business she owned and a snow cone operation run by her children, and even a state Senate campaign event.

Federal investigators initiated the probe on an anonymous tip through the Department of Health and Human Services that she bought a Louis Vuitton handbag for $550 using money from her healthcare business in 2016, two years before her election to the Senate.