New York Assemblywoman Indicted On 11 Counts of Fraud, Witness Tampering

10 January, 2018, 02:05 | Author: Kim Reid
  • Brooklyn Eagle

A NY state lawmaker was accused of pocketing tens of thousands of dollars meant for Superstorm Sandy victims in an 11-count felony indictment unveiled Tuesday.

The assemblywoman representing Bay Ridge, Coney Island, Dyker Heights and other Brooklyn communities allegedly committed the crimes between 2012 and 2016.

Her lawyer, Joel Cohen, declined to comment prior to her arraignment, which was expected to occur within hours.

Federal prosecutors said Ms. Harris, a 57-year-old Brooklyn Democrat, submitted fake documents to the Build it Back program, New York City's Sandy-recovery initiative, falsely claiming her home was damaged in the October 2012 storm.

"In fact, 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", FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney said in a statement to Fox News. An obstruction-of-justice count alleged she convinced others to lie between last March and May after she became aware of a grand jury probe.

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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.

Harris was elected to the city council in 2015.

"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", said U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue.

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. "As if these allegations weren't enough, Harris allegedly obstructed a federal investigation into the matters at hand, asking others to lie on her behalf, as alleged".

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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Though the future assemblywoman claimed to have rented studio space for CIGG at a cost of $22,800, the indictment says there was no rental agreement and Harris forged a landlord's signature on the paperwork.

She was specifically accused of spending $10,000 of government money to pay for airline and cruise tickets for herself and her husband.

Between July 2015 and January 2017, Harris committed a almost identical scheme-but this time as a sitting Assemblywoman.

And in November 2013, she filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Brooklyn.

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

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