By CRA News Service
Federal agents on Wednesday arrested former state Sen. Mandy Dawson at her Daytona Beach home on charges of income-tax evasion and failing to file tax returns.
The charges stem from her allegedly taking an $82,000 payoff from a major GOP operative who says he was seeking political favors from her while she was serving in the Florida Legislature.
Dawson, 55, a Democrat, whose district covered Delray Beach, made her first appearance in Orlando federal court wearing a lime-green sleeveless top, a matching skirt and sandals. Dawson was led into the courtroom in shackles and a judge released her after a brief hearing on a $100,000 bond. She left the courthouse, arm in arm, with her new husband, Hobson Bethune Sr., and declined to comment.
The tax evasion charges are punishable by up to five years in prison and $100,000 in fines, while the charges of failing to file tax returns are punishable by up to a year in prison.
Dawson was Broward County’s first black woman in the state Legislature. She was known as a champion of the poor and the medically needy, serving six years in the state House followed by a decade in the state Senate. She left the legislature in 2008 by term limits, following controversies about her health, poor attendance record and solicitation of money from lobbyists.
The arrest culminates a five-year federal corruption investigation, headed by the U.S. Department of Justice, and stretching from South Florida to Tallahassee.
Dawson’s name surfaced in the probe that centered on Alan Mendelsohn, a prominent Hollywood eye doctor who was a major player in the political fundraising world.
Mendelsohn — who said he paid off Dawson so she wouldn’t oppose legislation he advocated — was sentenced to a four-year prison sentence in June after pleading guilty to a single conspiracy charge of defrauding the U.S. government.
Mendelsohn admitted that he failed to report to the IRS $700,000 he secretly diverted from campaign donations and other income to himself, his family and his mistress. A chunk of that money also went to Dawson, he said.
The charges filed against Dawson on Wednesday do not explicitly link the alleged tax evasion to the Mendelsohn payments, and Dawson has not been officially accused of any wrongdoing connected to him.