Published: Wed, January 10, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Lawmaker Fraudulently Took Cash Meant for Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief, Prosecutors Say

Lawmaker Fraudulently Took Cash Meant for Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief, Prosecutors Say

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.

Associated plots sought to drain money from other government entities like the New York City Council, as well as hiding $10,010.08 from creditors in bankruptcy court, the indictment said.

From 2012 and 2016, Harris defrauded various government agencies, including the City Council, the city's Department of Youth and Community Development, FEMA, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the NYC Build It Back Program and U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of NY, according to Richard Donoughue, interim U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of NY. 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. Her lawyer declined comment prior to her arraignment.

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The court papers say Harris also stole FEMA money for Sandy recovery and Build It Back money from New York City when she falsely claimed she had to relocate due to storm damage to her Neptune Avenue home. "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".

New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters also blasted the scheme. "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".

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.

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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. Instead it allegedly went into her checking account and paid for airline tickets, a cruise and bills from Victoria's Secret, 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa reported. She then did the "nearly identical scheme" once she became an assemblywoman. When the not-for-profit got the discretionary funding, she rerouted the funds-$11,400-for her personal use.

"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. Both statements were false.

Her predecessor in the Brooklyn district, Alec Brook-Krasny, was indicted past year in connection with the takedown of three pill mills accused of putting $6.3 million of opioids on the black market.

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