New York Dem Charged With Stealing Hurricane Relief Funds

10 January, 2018, 02:06 | Author: Diane Mills
  • BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP  file

The U.S. Attorney's Office said in a news release that Pamela Harris, a New York State Assemblywoman, was indicted for a number of offenses, including wire fraud, bankruptcy fraud, and making false statements.

Harris, who was elected in 2015, allegedly defrauded City Council, the city's Department of Youth and Community Development, FEMA, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city's Build It Back Program and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of NY. Beginning that December, according to the indictment, Harris applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for housing assistance, claiming that the storm had rendered her three-story residence on Neptune Avenue uninhabitable.

The Brooklyn politician was charged Tuesday with turning the nightmare aftermath of Hurricane Sandy into a money-making scheme by lying about the damage to her Brooklyn home.

Harris actually stayed in the undamaged house while allegedly filing phony rent payment receipts and a bogus lease agreement for a Staten Island residence. Prosecutors said that among other things, this Brooklyn-based Democrat improperly took cash meant for Hurricane Sandy disaster relief funds. She is accused of pocketing money that was to cover a relocation to Staten Island in the wake of the storm.

Harris was being investigated around this time by a federal grand jury for various fraud schemes.

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.

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If convicted, she faces 30 years in prison on one of the FEMA charges, 20 years on each wire fraud, conspiracy, witness tampering or obstruction of justice charges and five years on each bankruptcy fraud and false statement charges.

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.

As a sitting assemblywoman between July 2015 and January 2017, Harris allegedly committed the same rent scheme, using $11,400 of discretionary funding for personal use.

According to the indictment, Harris used more than $70,000 from the City Council that was supposed to go for the organization's rent.

"In the weeks immediately following her deposit of Check 377 into her personal checking account, Harris used the funds held in the account to make online payments to several retailers, including Victoria's Secret and Kohl's, to pay the monthly mortgage payment on the Coney Island Residence, and to purchase airline and cruise tickets for herself and her spouse totaling almost $10,000", the indictment states. The same thing occurred with $35,000 in council funds awarded in 2016.

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

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