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NY Assemblywoman indicted for multiple fraud schemes and obstruction of justice

Pamela Harris was recently charged with an 11-count indictment, including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, making false statements, bankruptcy fraud, witness tampering, and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Image Credit: NY1.com
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Representing Bay Ridge, Coney Island, Dyker Heights, and other nearby communities in Brooklyn, New York Assemblywoman Pamela Harris was recently charged with an 11-count indictment, including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, making false statements, bankruptcy fraud, witness tampering, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Between 2012 and 2016, Harris allegedly defrauded multiple state and federal programs by stealing more than $60,000 intended for low-income children and victims of Hurricane Sandy.

“As alleged in the indictment, the defendant defrauded government agencies out of tens of thousands of dollars in public funds and tried to fraudulently obtain even more,” stated U.S. 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.”

Besides defrauding Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Harris also allegedly defrauded the New York City Council and Department of Youth and Community Development in order to pay her personal expenses, including vacations, her mortgage, her lingerie tab at Victoria’s Secret, and her bills at Kohl’s.

“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 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.”

Between 2012 and 2014, Harris allegedly defrauded FEMA out of nearly $25,000 by falsely claiming that she had been forced out of her Coney Island residence by Hurricane Sandy. While filing fake lease agreements to FEMA, Harris filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Brooklyn in November 2013.

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Serving as Executive Director of the Coney Island Generation Gap, Harris defrauded the New York City 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 between August 2014 and July 2015. Instead of providing for low-income youth, Harris diverted the funds to her personal checking account and used the money to pay for personal expenses.

While serving in the New York State Assembly a year later, Harris allegedly committed the exact same scheme by defrauding the New York City Council of $11,400 by diverting the funds from the not-for-profit organization to her personal account. In 2016, she filed false claims in order to persuade HUD’s Build it Back Program to pay for substantial construction to her home.

After Harris became aware of the grand jury’s investigation into her various fraud schemes in 2017, she allegedly instructed witnesses to lie to FBI agents conducting the grand jury investigation, which the witnesses did. If convicted, she 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.

On Tuesday afternoon, she was released on $150,000 bond.

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