NY state Assemblywoman Pamela Harris was indicted on fraud charges Tuesday for what prosecutors said was the theft of tens of thousands in city and federal dollars meant for superstorm Sandy victims and programs to aid vulnerable youth.
Pamela Harris, 57, from Brooklyn, was charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, making false statements, bankruptcy fraud, witness tampering and conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to the New York Daily News.
If convicted, Harris faces a maximum of 30 years in prison on one of the charges of making false statements to FEMA, as well as a maximum of 20 years on each charge of wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, witness tampering and obstruction.
She allegedly stole tens of thousands in city and state funds, officials said. In another scheme, she is also accused of defrauding the Federal Emergency Management Agency of almost $25,000 in temporary housing assistance by falsely claiming that she had been forced out of her Coney Island residence by Sandy, claiming that it was uninhabitable. NBC New York reports that the indictment also charges her with lying on a NYC Build it Back assistance application about living at the first-floor Staten Island apartment and also submitting a forged lease and rental receipts.
Where her Coney Island neighbors saw devastation, crooked state Assemblywoman Pamela Harris envisioned opportunity - and cashed in.
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Last year, when she became aware of the investigation, the elected official went to friends with a request that they lie to FBI agents, the indictment charged.More news: Rising Temperatures Are Turning 99% Of These Sea Turtles Into Females
While her constituents struggled with the hurricane's devastation, "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", said FBI New York field office head William Sweeney Jr. "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". She also allegedly submitted false documents to FEMA for financial assistance and to have "substantial" construction done on her home.
Harris, who was elected to the assembly in a special election in November 2015, fended off a primary challenge in September 2016.
Those witnesses did lie, the DOJ said. She also faces a maximum of five years on each of the bankruptcy fraud or other false statements charges.
She was specifically accused of spending $10,000 of government money to pay for airline and cruise tickets for herself and her husband.
According to the 21-page federal indictment, Harris defrauded the City Council of almost $23,000 by falsely claiming the money would cover the rent for a Brooklyn nonprofit.
Between July 2015 and January 2017, Harris committed a almost identical scheme-but this time as a sitting Assemblywoman.
Her Albany and district offices were not available for comment on Tuesday.