Lawmaker charged with pocketing Sandy funds

NY Assemblywoman Pamela Harris was indicted Tuesday on multiple counts of fraud

An indictment charges the 57-year-old assemblywoman representing Bay Ridge, Coney Island, Dyker Heights and other nearby communities, 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.

She was arrested on Tuesday morning, and is expected to make her first appearance in Federal court to be arraigned later in the afternoon.

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.

"At a time when many residents in her district were dealing with the horrific aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Harris was busy brewing a storm of her own, one that resulted in her receiving significant payouts by the very federal agency charged with helping those truly in need", said William F. Sweeney Jr., assistant director-in-charge of the FBI's NY field office. An obstruction-of-justice count alleges she convinced others to lie.

In addition to the Hurricane Sandy-related frauds, Harris faces charges over an estimated $76,000 that the New York City Council awarded the nonprofit Coney Island Generation Gap, which Harris founded in 2003.

"The defendant defrauded government agencies out of tens of thousands of dollars in public funds and tried to fraudulently obtain even more", said U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue in a statement.

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While head of a Brooklyn nonprofit between August 2015 and July 2015, Harris allegedly used $23,000 meant to rent a studio for personal use in her checking account, according to the indictment unsealed Tuesday.

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.

Last year, when she became aware of the investigation, the elected official went to friends with a request that they lie to FBI agents, the indictment charged. She provided fake lease agreements and receipts, and forged the landlord's signature, said prosecutors. Instead it allegedly went into her checking account and paid for airline tickets, a cruise and bills from Victoria's Secret, 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa reported.

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

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.

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