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

BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP  file

On Tuesday, New York State Assemblymember Pamela Harris was indicted on multiple federal counts of fraud.

Pamela Harris, who oversees Coney Island, Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights of New York City, has been charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, making false statements, bankruptcy fraud, witness tampering and conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to papers filed by the New York Daily News.

She was arrested Tuesday morning and was expected to make a federal court appearance for arraignment later in the day.

Not only was Harris accused of stealing from the government, she reportedly stole almost $25,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), that was responsible for helping NY and New Jersey rebuild after Hurricane Sandy hit the states hard in 2012. "When she learned that law enforcement was investigating her various fraud schemes, she pressured witnesses to lie to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and cover them up".

Harris, 57, was charged with two counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of making false statements, two counts of bankruptcy fraud, one count of witness tampering and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of NY.

If convicted, Harris faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for one of the charges related to making false statements to FEMA and a maximum of 20 years on each of the wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, witness tampering or obstruction of justice conspiracy charges, officials said.

Harris also claimed the Staten Island landlord "was giving her $1,200 in monthly rental assistance while under oath during a bankruptcy hearing in 2013", according to the indictment cited by NBC New York.

"When she learned that law enforcement was investigating her various fraud schemes, she pressured witnesses to lie to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and cover them up", Donoghue said. She provided fake lease agreements and receipts, and forged the landlord's signature, said prosecutors.

Prosecutors say the city awarded CIGG more than $42,000 in discretionary funds for fiscal year 2015 based in part on fraudulent documentation supplied by Harris.

Between August 2014 and July 2015, Harris, who was executive director of a not-for-profit organization in Brooklyn at the time, cheated the Council out of almost $23,000 in discretionary funding by falsely claiming the not-for-profit would use the money to rent a studio space, the court documents stated. Harris allegedly used the money for vacations, cruise tickets and even her lingerie bill at Victoria's Secret. She then did the "nearly identical scheme" once she became an assemblywoman.

Just six months before she submitted her November 13, 2013, petition for bankruptcy with her husband, according to the indictment, Harris opened a new bank account and deposited $10,000 into it that same day.

The lawyers noted that "importantly, none of the allegations contained in the indictment relate to Ms. Harris's conduct in office".

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