New York Democrat Accused of Stealing $25000 in Hurricane Sandy Money

New York Democrat Accused of Stealing $25000 in Hurricane Sandy Money

Authorities on Tuesday said a Brooklyn assemblywoman cheated the federal government out of Superstorm Sandy money and New York City out of funds intended for charities, spending some of the proceeds of the crimes on her mortgage, vacations and merchandise from Victoria's Secret.

The 11-count federal indictment filed against her this morning in Brooklyn describes a long-running scheme that predates her time in office.

She represents Bay Ridge, Coney Island, Dyker Heights and other communities nearby.

The court papers say Harris also stole FEMA money for Sandy recovery and Build It Back money from New York City when she falsely claimed she had to relocate due to storm damage to her Neptune Avenue home.

Photo The Legislature in Albany was in session on Tuesday, but Assemblywoman Pamela Harris was absent; her indictment on fraud charges was unsealed on Tuesday, and her arrest announced.

The indictments include two counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of making false statements, two counts of bankruptcy fraud, and one count of witness tampering and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, CBS New York reported.

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.

Harris is at least the 45th state lawmaker to face ethical or legal charges since 2000, according to a database maintained by the USA TODAY Network.

Court papers also claim Harris defrauded the City Council of almost $23,000 by saying, falsely, the money would go to pay rent for a Brooklyn nonprofit.

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U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said Harris defrauded the government of tens of thousands of dollars.

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.

Prosecutors said she committed other frauds, including cheating the New York City Council out of discretionary funds meant for nonprofits.

According to officials, after Harris became aware of a grand jury investigation into her alleged fraud schemes early previous year, she told witnesses to lie to FBI investigators, "which the witnesses did", according to the indictment.

The final scheme described in Tuesday's indictment involves Harris' filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 2013 after she owed approximately $60,000 on her mortgage for the Coney Island property. She again deceived the Council by saying the funds would be used for rental space.

"She has pleaded not guilty, and we look forward to her day in court and an opportunity there to present the full facts", Joel Cohen and Jerry Goldfeder, Harris' attorneys, said in a statement.

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

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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