A former congressional candidate who is accused of stealing from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program released a statement Thursday calling the federal indictment a “designed cover-up.”
Shaun Brown, a 58-year-old Democrat who ran against Rep. Scott Taylor in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District in 2016 was indicted Wednesday on charges of wire fraud and theft of government property, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Investigators believe Brown requested fraudulent reimbursements totaling $439,071, according to a federal indictment. The reimbursements came from the Virginia Department of Health and went back to the Summer Food Service Program.
Brown worked for JOBS Community Outreach Development Corporation, a nonprofit registered in the commonwealth. In 2011 and 2012, JOBS sponsored a federally-funded program aimed at feeding hungry children after free and reduced lunch programs ended for summer vacation.
Brown was in charge of running the program, and in 2012 she and other people allegedly submitted “fraudulent claims” for reimbursement. Prosecutors believe Brown told staff to falsely increase the number of children the program fed and create false documents to get extra money, according to the DOJ.
Brown’s office sent out a media advisory on Thursday afternoon with the subject line “THE 2018 DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR THE 2ND CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT FALSELY CHARGED WITH LYING ABOUT FEEDING NEEDY POOR CHILDREN.” In the email, Brown said she “expressly and vehemently” denied the charges against her.
Brown said that she believes the charges may be in retaliation for a “whistleblower” complaint she filed against the USDA in 2013 in which she accused the agency of discriminating against the food program.
On Dec. 4, she and JOBS co-founder Jenever Brown filed a $10 million civil rights lawsuit against the USDA and Virginia Department of Health alleging that the agencies discriminated against the pair and the program in several ways, including by “falsifying over reimbursements.”
“It is unfortunate that I’m being demonized by the government for just coming forward,” Brown wrote in the email. “It’s like being abused twice. The summer food service program should be administered fairly to all potential sponsors to fight hunger in Hampton Roads and across the state of Virginia.”
She added that past local African American JOBS sponsors have encouraged her to fight for them to be treated equally to their white counterparts.
“My hope is that by the summer of 2018, the food service program can be corrected to feed all hungry children the best food,” Brown wrote. “We must insure [sic] that they too are strong enough to seek the American dream and that our African American sponsors are treated equally as their white counterparts.”
If convicted, Brown faces up to 20 years in prison.
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Ths story was published in partnership with our sister publication, Southside Daily.