Sunday, 22 July, 2018

NY state lawmaker charged with fraud, obstructing justice

New York State Assemblywoman Pamela Harris of Brooklyn New York State Assemblywoman Pamela Harris of Brooklyn
Orlando Vargas | 10 January, 2018, 01:30

NY state Assemblywoman Pamela Harris was indicted on fraud charges Tuesday for what prosecutors said was the theft of tens of thousands in city and federal dollars meant for superstorm Sandy victims and programs to aid vulnerable youth.

From 2012 and 2016, Harris defrauded various government agencies, including the City Council, the city's Department of Youth and Community Development, FEMA, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the NYC Build It Back Program and U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of NY, according to Richard Donoughue, interim U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of NY.

New York Assembly woman Pamela Harris, 57, from Brooklyn, was charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, making false statements, bankruptcy fraud, witness tampering and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

The 11-count federal indictment filed against her this morning in Brooklyn describes a long-running scheme that predates her time in office. Instead, she continued to live at her Coney Island home and pocketed the FEMA payments to the fake Staten Island landlord.

Before and during her tenure as assemblywoman, Harris allegedly went to great lengths to defraud local and federal agencies, FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney said in a statement. Harris replaced Alec Brook-Krasny, who quit the assembly and then was later indicted on health care fraud and bribery charges.

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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.

To get CIGG's operations subsidized by the city, according to the indictment, Harris billed her nonprofit as a mentorship program that connected teens and young adults living in Coney Island to media arts. Harris provided FEMA cash receipts showing that she supposedly paid monthly rent between $1,550 and $2,500 to the landlord from November 2012 to January 2014, prosecutors said. The same thing occurred with $35,000 in council funds awarded in 2016. Harris again made misrepresentations about rented studio space and again diverted the funds to her personal use, according to the indictment. She also allegedly submitted false documents to FEMA for financial assistance and to have "substantial" construction done on her home.

According to the indictment, Harris spent some of the proceeds of crimes on personal expenses, including airline and cruise tickets for herself and her spouse totaling almost $10,000. Authorities said her looting of government funds went on from 2012 through 2017.

In response to media reports on the bankruptcy, Harris penned an open letter about her financial woes, describing a battle with breast cancer in 2006, her mother's pancreatic cancer and her husband's 2012 work injury.

Harris' office did not immediately respond to a Law&Crime request for comment.

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