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

10 January, 2018, 02:05 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
  • Brooklyn Eagle

NY state Assemblywoman Pamela Harris (left) shakes hands with a marathon runner in this photo posted the Legislature's website.

New York State Assemblywoman Pamela Harris is facing multiple federal corruption charges for allegedly stealing federal and city funds.

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

The 11-count indictment against 57-year-old Pamela Harris of Coney Island was unsealed Tuesday in federal court. They say she committed other fraud, including cheating the New York City Council out of discretionary funds meant for non-profits.

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The indictment says she took almost $25,000 from the agency and pocketed it because she did not need the money to fix her undamaged home. The Staten Island landlord Harris claimed to have been paying in cash every month - between $1,550 and $2,500 a go - is identified in the charging papers as Landlord #2.

For example, Harris fraudulently applied for FEMA temporary housing assistance after Hurricane Sandy, according to investigators. She is accused of pocketing money that was to cover a relocation to Staten Island in the wake of the storm.

Between 2012 and 2014, Harris swindled FEMA out of almost $25,000 by falsely claiming to FEMA she had been forced out of her residence by Hurricane Sandy, according to the 11-count indictment unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn.

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.

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

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. The indictment also said she made online payments to several retailers, including Victoria's Secret, and paid her monthly mortgage. The same thing occurred with $35,000 in council funds awarded in 2016. She then did the "nearly identical scheme" once she became an assemblywoman.

"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.

Meanwhile, according to the indictment, Harris "concealed financial assets from the bankruptcy court to avoid having the assets used to pay her creditors".

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The politician spent $10,000 of her ill-gotten gains on vacation getaways, covering airline and cruise tickets for the politician and her husband, officials charged. Authorities said her looting of government funds went on from 2012 through 2017.

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