It’s a sad day in Atlanta, Georgia as the first openly bisexual Council Member, and a young man of color at that, has been indicted on fraud charges.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a federal grand jury voted to indict Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown, 35, on multiple counts of fraud. Specifically, Brown is charged with wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud, and making false statements on a bank loan application.
According to U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak, the alleged crimes occurred for several years before Brown took office. Pak alleges that Brown opened several credit cards in 2012 and made thousands of dollars’ worth of personal purchases. Pak also accuses Brown of collecting over $60,000 in car loans, and providing false information to Signature Bank when applying for a $75,000 loan in August 2017. In that last case, Pak says that Brown reported earning $325,000 per year and then he later submitted a federal income tax stating her earned $125,000 per year.
“For years, Antonio Brown allegedly sought to defraud a number of banks and credit card companies by falsely claiming that he was the victim of identity theft,” said Pak.
“We are committed to working with our Federal law enforcement partners to aggressively pursue those who falsely claim their identity was stolen in an attempt to defraud financial institutions,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General of Social Security. “I thank the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and IRS Criminal Investigation for their efforts in this case, and the United States Attorney’s Office for bringing these charges.”
According to Atlanta’s CBS affiliate, CBS 46, City Council President Felicia Moore issued the following statement regarding Brown’s indictment:
“As the public has been made aware, Council member Antonio Brown has recently been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice on multiple charges unrelated to his service on the Atlanta City Council. At this time, no vacancy on Council exists as a result of this occurrence. A vacancy would only exist in the event of a resignation, conviction, or state-level suspension.
Per the U.S. Attorney’s Office (Northern District of Georgia), please be reminded that the indictment only contains charges and the defendant is presumed innocent until otherwise proven at trial. This is a personal matter to be addressed by Mr. Brown as he undergoes due process of the law.”
As for local citizens, there are some who still stand in Brown’s corner. At least, at this early point in the case.
“It’s important to remember that he’s innocent before we rush to judgement on that, and that it’s separate from the work that he’s done,” said Sarah Vanegas, who lives in Atlanta’s 3rd District.
As for Brown, he has told reporters that he denies the charges and will fight them. Also, he has no intention of resigning his council seat.
Before these allegations, Brown was becoming a heroic elected official in Atlanta. Brown was elected as a City Councilmember in 2019. At the time, he was noted as the first openly bisexual councilmember for Atlanta’s Council, the youngest member on the current council, and the first Black LGBTQ person elected into the position. Now, Brown is noted for another record, the first sitting council member to be indicted since a bribery and income tax evasion case in 1993.
Before these allegations, Brown was also advocating for the Black Lives Matter movement. Brown led protests against police brutality and formed a task force to address the issue. He also proposed an ordinance to potentially outlaw “riot agents,” such as tear gas and rubber bullets. Besides that, Brown made a splash when he pushed for a ban on landlords rejecting federal housing vouchers as payment for rent. When that ordinance was passed in February, advocates for affordable housing applauded Brown.
With that in mind, it’s tough to not feel some remorse around this fraud case. It’s undeniable that Brown has done well for the city. But does Brown, who has unquestionably done some good, also have it within himself to commit multiple cases of fraud? We’ll find out as the case continues. But as Atlanta citizen Sarah Vanegas said, “Would I give him my wallet to hold, probably not. So is he the most trustworthy person, probably not. But you know, I think he has done some decent things for the city.”