NY Lawmaker Accused of Stealing Aid Designed to Help Superstorm Sandy Victims

10 January, 2018, 01:32 | Author: Valerie Burke
  • NY assemblywoman indicted on fraud and other charges

Brooklyn Assemblywoman Pamela Harris, a Democrat, has been indicted for cheating various government agencies out of tens of thousands of dollars-including almost $25,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for Hurricane Sandy-and tampering with witnesses, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of ny announced on Tuesday.

Prosecutors say the 57-year-old Harris pocketed $25,000 in federal funds by falsely claiming that the October 29, 2012 storm chased her from her Coney Island residence.

Prosecutors say the 57-year-old pocketed $25,000 in federal funds by falsely claiming the 2012 storm chased her from her Coney Island residence.

Associated plots sought to drain money from other government entities like the New York City Council, as well as hiding $10,010.08 from creditors in bankruptcy court, the indictment said.

Harris' predecessor in the Brooklyn district she was representing, Alec Brook-Krasny, was indicted past year in connection with producing opioids.

Harris faces more than 50 years in prison if she is found guilty of the charges.

She submitted fake lease agreements to FEMA that she had allegedly entered into with the landlord of the Staten Island residence, as well as fraudulent rent payment receipts, the indictment said.

Among the agencies Harris allegedly defrauded: The city's Department of Youth and Community Development, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the city's Build it Back Program. An obstruction-of-justice count alleges she convinced others to lie.

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A woman who answered the phone at Harris' Brooklyn office Tuesday said neither the assemblywoman nor her communications staff would issue a comment.

"As alleged in the indictment, the defendant defrauded government agencies out of tens of thousands of dollars in public funds and tried to fraudulently obtain even more", Richard Donoghue, the interim USA attorney for New York's eastern district, said in a statement.

In Nov. 2013, before she became an elected official, Harris filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Brooklyn and misrepresented her financial situation at the time, per court documents.

She is also accused of keeping $23,000 in New York City funds that were meant for Coney Island Generation Gap, a non-profit she once led, and directing two people to lie to FBI investigators when they were interviewed in her case.

Instead, she's accused of diverting the cash into her checking account to pay for personal expenses.

Between March and May 2017, after Harris learned of the grand jury's investigation into her various fraud schemes, she directed witnesses to lie to FBI agents conducting the probe, which the witnesses did. Harris again made misrepresentations about rented studio space and again diverted the funds to her personal use, according to the indictment.

Unrelated to Tuesday's indictment, Brook-Krasny, the former assemblyman whom Harris succeeded in office, faces criminal charges as well.

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