Federal criminal trial of Memphis area state senator continues

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Testimony continued as the third day of the federal criminal trial of state senator Katrina Robinson opened Wednesday morning. Robinson is accused of misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal money, granted to her business, for personal expenses.

The trial moved forward Wednesday with prosecutors continuing to call witnesses as they present their case.

MORE: Prosecutors in Katrina Robinson fraud case want trial moved out of Memphis

Robinson is charged with 20 counts of theft and fraud.

Prosecutors allege, while receiving more than $2 million in federal grants to pay for student scholarships to the vocational school she founded, she used more than $600,000 for her personal use, buying a 2016 Jeep Renegade for her daughter, clothing, to pay legal fees for a divorce, and for home improvements.

Wednesday morning, two bank employees, one from Regions Bank and another from Pinnacle Financial Partners, both testified that Robinson’s business, The Healthcare Institute, held accounts that Robinson signed off on.

A central area of focus is a Regions account where prosecutors said in opening statements Tuesday that business income and the federal grant money were mixed.

The Regions employee testified to several transactions made by the business with cross-examination by Robinson’s defense attorney, Lawrence Laurenzi, including a lengthy back and forth over the way checks are processed.

Laurenzi rebutted prosecutors’ claims, saying Robinson merely collected profit from her business and that some of the issues may be the result of poor record-keeping.

MORE: New fraud charges filed against State Senator Katrina Robinson, two others

Robinson used an accountant to track her businesses finances, Laurenzi said.

Before the jury was brought in Wednesday morning, U.S. District Judge Sheryl Lipman did admonish government prosecutors for not delivering documents to defense attorneys related to expected testimony until late Tuesday night.

Robinson, who has plead not guilty, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The trial continues Thursday morning.