New York Assemblywoman Pamela Harris Defrauded Government Agencies Out of Thousands of Dollars and Tampered with Witnesses, Say Prosecutors.
A multi-count indictment was unsealed this week by federal prosecutors in a Brooklyn, New York, courtroom accusing Democratic Party Assemblywoman Pamela Harris, who represents constituents in Bay Ridge, Coney Island, Dyker Heights and other sections of the city, with two counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of making false statements to the FBI, two counts of bankruptcy fraud, one count of witness tampering and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Harris’s arraignment on the indictment containing 11-criminal counts was held before United States Magistrate Judge Ramon E. Reyes, Jr. in Kings County (Brooklyn).
“As alleged in the indictment, the [Democratic legislator] defrauded government agencies out of tens of thousands of dollars in public funds and tried to fraudulently obtain even more [taxpayer money],” stated United States Attorney Richard Donoghue.
“She conducted her schemes victimizing the federal and New York City governments, and then obstructed a federal investigation into her crimes while a sitting New York State Assemblywoman. When she learned that law enforcement was investigating her various fraud schemes, she pressured witnesses to lie to the FBI and cover them up. This office and our law enforcement partners are committed to ensuring that those who serve the public are held accountable under the law to the same extent as the people they are privileged to serve,” Donoghue told the press.
“Both before and during her tenure as a public servant, as alleged, Assemblywoman Pamela Harris went to great lengths to defraud local and federal agencies out of thousands of dollars,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney.
“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. 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. These types of crimes threaten the financial stability of our local and federal governments, but when a public official is involved, even more is at risk. Today we are proud to put an end to this inexcusable scheme,” he stated during a press conference.
“The brazen corruption charged as a result of this investigation tramples on the very definition of a public servant,” stated DOI Commissioner Peters. “This elected official exploited the public she was elected to serve by stealing from City and federal programs and then concealing the fraud with false statements and asking witnesses to obstruct the investigation, according to the indictment. DOI thanks the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the FBI for their partnership in working together to expose the array of wrongdoing charged in this indictment.”
As alleged in the indictment, between 2012 and 2016, the defendant defrauded various government agencies, including the New York City Council (“NYC Council”), New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (“DYCD”), Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”), United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”), the New York City Build it Back Program (“NYC Build it Back Program”) and United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of New York (“U.S. Bankruptcy Court”).
DEEP STATE CORRUPTION?
Between August 2014 and July 2015, the defendant, who was at the time the Executive Director of a not-for-profit organization located in Brooklyn, defrauded the NYC Council of nearly $23,000 in discretionary funding by falsely claiming that the not-for-profit would use the funds to rent a studio space. As part of her scheme, the defendant submitted to DYCD—the government entity responsible for administering and disbursing the NYC Council’s discretionary funds—a forged lease agreement. Once the not-for-profit received the funding, the defendant diverted the funds to her personal checking account and used the money to pay for personal expenses.
The following year, between approximately July 2015 and January 2017, the defendant committed a nearly identical scheme—this time as a sitting Assemblywoman. The defendant again defrauded the NYC Council by claiming that funds would be spent on rental space. In fact, when the not-for-profit received the discretionary funding, the defendant diverted the funds—this time, $11,400—for her personal use.
“If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment on one of the charges relating to making false statements to FEMA; a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment on each of the wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, witness tampering, or obstruction of justice conspiracy charges; and a maximum sentence of five years of imprisonment on each of the bankruptcy fraud or other false statements charges,” according to a Justice Department statement.