JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown prepares for a court date Tuesday in the federal corruption case against her and her chief of staff, the I-TEAM has uncovered a surprising connection between Brown's family and another high-profile federal case.
That case involved the extortion of University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino by a woman who at one point had a relationship with Tyree Fields, the man who married Brown's daughter.
Fields and Shantrel Brown married in Jacksonville in 2005. But three years later, Fields said he had an “intense sexual relationship with Karen Sypher.”
Sypher was convicted of trying to extort money from Pitino by claiming that he raped her twice in 2003. She didn't report the alleged rapes until six years later, and her allegations were ruled without merit.
Sypher was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison for trying to get cash and other items from Pitino in exchange for her silence on her rape allegations.
According to a USA Today article from the trial coverage, Sypher admitted her extortion attempt to her ex-boyfriend -- Fields -- who testified against her.
He admitted he met Sypher at a mall in 2008, and that's when their sexual relationship began. There are no records of a divorce for Fields and Shantrel Brown in Duval County.
In 2006, months after marrying Shantrel Brown, Fields was tied to a questionable money trail involving Corrine Brown.
According to an Orlando Sentinel article, “Brown hired her son-in-law Tyree Fields at $5,500 for political consulting during the 2006 election cycle. Her chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, said the salary was for three months of fundraising and event planning."
The I-TEAM tried to contact Fields on Monday to find out if the FBI questioned him in connection with the corruption case against Corrine Brown, but we were unable to reach him.
Simmons is charged alongside Brown in the federal corruption case.
The 24-count indictment against the pair accuses the two of defrauding donors of $800,000 that was supposed to go to a charity helping children, One Door for Education.
Corrine Brown and Simmons pleaded not guilty to the charges, which stemmed from a monthslong federal investigation into the unlicensed educational charity based in Virginia.
Prosecutors claim Corrine Brown, Simmons and the charity's president, Carla Wiley, used money donated to the One Door charity as a slush fund to buy plane tickets, repair their personal cars, pay for luxury vacations and purchase a luxury box at a Beyonce concert, among other uses.
The indictment said Corrine Brown and Simmons used close relatives -- labeled only as Person B and Person C -- to help funnel the funds.
Information in the court documents points to Person B being Shantrel Brown and Person C being Simmons' sister, Monica Simmons Isom. Prosecutors said both women profited from the alleged criminal behavior.
Isom, a fourth-grade teacher at Joseph Finegan Elementary School in Duval County, has worked for the school district for 25 years.
According to the indictment, Person C, who was listed as “a close family member of Ronnie Simmons and full-time teacher residing in Jacksonville,” was also listed as a part-time employee for Corrine Brown for 16 years, and that Person C received $735,000 in pay and benefits from the House of Representatives for a job that she didn't really have.
Prosecutors say that money was funneled to her brother for personal expenses, including a boat and credit card payments.
The I-TEAM obtained a divorce filing Monday from Isom in 2002 in which she lists her job as a Duval County school teacher but also openly claimed she worked part time for the U.S. Congress, getting $300 a month.
In that same filing, she said she owned a BMW and a Pathfinder.
Mortgage documents show Isom paid off her $180,000 home near Arlington in just eight years.
The I-TEAM also found facts pointing to Person B in the indictment being Shantrel Brown. Person B is listed as “a close relative of Brown, and a lobbyist in the Washington, D.C., area.”
Shantrel Brown is a partner at a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm. She has a law degree and is a former assistant state attorney.
According to the indictment, Person B received a total of $8,900 in One Door money deposited into her bank account.
Both Corrine Brown and Simmons are charged with participating in a conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, multiple counts of mail and wire fraud, and concealing material facts on required financial disclosure forms.
Simmons is also charged with theft of government property.
Corrine Brown is charged with obstruction of the due administration of the internal revenue laws and filing false tax returns.
If convicted on all charges, Simmons could face up to 355 years in prison and $4.75 million in fines. He declined to comment on the indictment after the hearing Friday.
Simmons' next required appearance in court will be at the trial, which is scheduled to begin Sept. 6.
If convicted on all charges, Corrine Brown could be sentenced to up to 357 years in prison and would be fined $4.8 million.