Andrew Gillum, Who Barely Lost Florida Gov. Race to DeSantis, Indicted for Campaign Fraud

DeSantis and Gillum at 2018 debate

Chris O’Meara-Pool/Getty Images

Andrew Gillum, the former Tallahassee mayor who lost the 2018 Florida governor’s race to Ron DeSantis by only 0.4 percent, will be indicted Wednesday in federal court for campaign fraud, according to a report by Marc Caputo, national political reporter with NBC News. [Note update at the end of this article; the indictment has been confirmed.]

DeSantis squeaked past Gillum in that 2018 election by a margin of just over 30,000 votes out of more than 8 million cast.

In the final month before the election, Gillum was engulfed in a scandal involving text messages that showed he had accepted improper gifts including New York Harbor boat trips and Broadway tickets to Hamilton (during the original cast run when tickets were a hot commodity) from an undercover FBI agent claiming to be a real estate developer. No charges were filed against Gillum in this matter, but he consented to pay a $5,000 state ethics fine for the improper gifts and it undeniably came at an inconvenient time for his campaign.

Gillum’s troubles didn’t end with that election loss and state ethics probe; federal investigators have continued to pursue him. A leaked criminal subpoena in 2019 showed a “wide-ranging” investigation into his financial dealings and associates.

In March 2020, Gillum was found naked, “inebriated,” and “unable to communicate” in a Miami hotel room. The police report from the incident said officers were responding to a call for a suspected overdose and they found Gillum, two other men (one of whom appeared to be suffering an overdose), and “in plain sight three small clear plastic baggies containing suspected crystal meth on both the bed and floor of the hotel room.”

Shortly thereafter, Gillum gave an interview with a local reporter denying drug use but confessing to a struggle with alcoholism after losing the 2018 election. He also said that he identified as bisexual. Gillum resigned from his gig as a CNN commentator and checked himself into a rehab center for alcohol.

According to Caputo, Gillum surrendered at 10 am ET and a federal indictment against him is scheduled to be unsealed at 1 pm ET, related to “alleged fraud tied to his campaign.”

The details are as of yet unclear other than some sort of alleged campaign finance wrongdoing, but Gillum issued a written statement to NBC News attacking the indictment as politically motivated:

“I have spent the last 20 years of my life in public service and continue to fight for the people,” Gillum said. “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’s statement also included a comment by Democratic election attorney Mark Elias and criminal defense lawyer David Oscar Markus insisting the evidence was “clear” and would show that their client was “innocent of all charges.”

Gillum spent Tuesday “phoning friends frantically” in anticipation of the indictment, reported Caputo, who spoke to two sources close to Gillum. One described the former mayor as “down,” “sad,” and feeling “beat up.”

UPDATE 11:50 am ET: The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida released a statement late morning Wednesday confirming that Gillum had been indicted, along with Sharon Janet Lettman-Hicks, Gillum’s longtime adviser for his gubernatorial, mayoral, and Tallahassee city commission campaigns.

According to the statement, a federal grand jury returned a 21-count indictment against Gillum and Lettman-Hicks for conspiracy, wire fraud, and making false statements:

The Indictment alleges that between 2016 and 2019, defendants Gillum and Lettman-Hicks conspired to commit wire fraud, by unlawfully soliciting and obtaining funds from various entities and individuals through false and fraudulent promises and representations that the funds would be used for a legitimate purpose. The Indictment further alleges the defendants used third parties to divert a portion of those funds to a company owned by Lettman-Hicks, who then fraudulently provided the funds, disguised as payroll payments, to Gillum for his personal use. Both defendants are charged with 19 counts of wire fraud. Gillum is also charged with making false statements to agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The offenses carry potential maximum terms of imprisonment of 5 years for making false statements, 20 years for wire fraud, and 20 years for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. An initial appearance is set for 2:00 pm ET Wednesday at a federal courthouse in Tallahassee.

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Sarah Rumpf joined Mediaite in 2020 and is a Contributing Editor focusing on politics, law, and the media. A native Floridian, Sarah attended the University of Florida, graduating with a double major in Political Science and German, and earned her Juris Doctor, cum laude, from the UF College of Law. Sarah's writing has been featured at National Review, The Daily Beast, Reason, Law & Crime, Independent Journal Review, Texas Monthly, The Capitolist, Breitbart Texas, Townhall, RedState, The Orlando Sentinel, and the Austin-American Statesman, and her political commentary has led to appearances on the BBC, MSNBC, NewsNation, Fox 35 Orlando, Fox 7 Austin, The Young Turks, The Dean Obeidallah Show, and other television, radio, and podcast programs across the globe.