Brooklyn Assemblywoman Pamela Harris, a Democrat, has been indicted for cheating various government agencies out of tens of thousands of dollars-including almost $25,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for Hurricane Sandy-and tampering with witnesses, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of ny announced on Tuesday.
The 11-count indictment against 57-year-old Pamela Harris of Coney Island was unsealed Tuesday in federal court.
The assemblywoman representing Bay Ridge, Coney Island, Dyker Heights and other Brooklyn communities allegedly committed the crimes between 2012 and 2016. Her lawyer declined comment prior to her arraignment.
And she was also accused of looting almost $25,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency by lying about damage to her Coney Island residence by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. 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. An obstruction-of-justice charge alleges she convinced others to lie between last March and May after she became aware of a grand jury probe.
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Harris, elected to the assembly in a November 2015 special election, was also charged with trying to illegally collect funds from the city's Build It Back program for Sandy victims.
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.
"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", Donoghue said.
U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said Harris defrauded the government of tens of thousands of dollars.
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Prosecutors say the city awarded CIGG more than $42,000 in discretionary funds for fiscal year 2015 based in part on fraudulent documentation supplied by Harris.
Once the city transferred the funds to CIGG's checking account, taking its balance from $772 to more than $43,000, Harris diverted the amount meant for rent to her personal bank account, according to the indictment. "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 again deceived the Council by saying the funds would be used for rental space. She provided fake lease agreements and receipts, and forged the landlord's signature, said prosecutors. The indictment also said she made online payments to several retailers, including Victoria's Secret, and paid her monthly mortgage.
"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.
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Aburas, 65, will lead the GPC until its next general assembly, a date for which could not yet be set "because of the current difficulties", a statement said.