MEMPHIS, Tenn. — An FBI forensic accountant testified for a second day Tuesday about purchases made by state Sen. Katrina Robinson, who is accused of misusing grant money.
Victoria Howell, the agent who analyzed Robinson’s and The Healthcare Institute’s bank accounts, told the courtroom Robinson used federal grant funds supposed to go toward her certified nursing school on an array of items including a trip to Jamaica, home improvements, clothes and beauty items.
Defense attorney Mathew Jehl, one of the attorneys representing Robinson, did everything he could to try and poke holes in her work.
Jehl circled back to records from Lowe’s multiple times, asking about purchases over the years. Records show the amount recorded but not what was specifically bought. Jehl repeatedly said that the agent didn’t actually know what was bought.
But the accountant wouldn’t budge, and would repeat various responses like, ” All I can tell you is it’s a purchase at Lowes made with THI funds” and “Construction and renovation costs were not allowable under terms of the grant.”
Jehl questioned her about not having similar breakdowns when it came to purchases from Best Buy, Ross and Dillard’s. In response to the $458 spent at Dillard’s, the agent said it was from “A department store, from an account primarily funded by grant funds.”And that “Ross is a clothing and decor store.
There was significant back and forth over the Grizzlies tickets Robinson is accused of buying with the grant money. Jehl asked multiple times if marketing and advertising is allowed within the grant terms. The agent only repeated in various ways any kind of entertainment is not and to confirm it was for tickets.
Jehl also asked about cash and check deposits made into THI’s account from Robinson’s estranged husband. Jehl asked if that could’ve been money to pay for their wedding videographer, a purchase detailed in Robinson’s indictment.
The agent said the couple both had personal and a joint account they could’ve made deposits into.
Later in the afternoon Tuesday after an extensive discussion with attorneys, the judge told Howell she needed to respond to questions directly and that she was not listed as a qualified witness with specialized knowledge of the grant.
In a redirect from the prosecution they listed out more than a dozen recipients of payments they believe came from grant funds. They asked Howell if she had records for the payments, to the majority of them she responded, “yes.”
FBI Special Agent Brent Hayden also testified about the records the FBI seized at THI and the items agents looked for in Robinson’s home during a search in 2020. Hayden said they were looking for student records and in her home items they believed she purchased with grant funds like shoes, bags, home theatre system and a Jeep Renegade.
Hayden said while they received a tip Robinson, a Democrat representing Memphis in the Tennessee legislature, had used grant funds for a purchase in 2016, the agency officially opened their investigation into her in March of 2019.