NY state lawmaker charged with fraud, obstructing justice

Assemblymember Pamela Harris who represents parts of Bath Beach Bay Ridge Brighton Beach Coney Island Dyker Heights and Seagate was indicted on fraud and cover-up charges on Tuesday. File

Not only was Harris accused of stealing from the government, she reportedly stole almost $25,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), that was responsible for helping NY and New Jersey rebuild after Hurricane Sandy hit the states hard in 2012.

Photo The Legislature in Albany was in session on Tuesday, but Assemblywoman Pamela Harris was absent; her indictment on fraud charges was unsealed on Tuesday, and her arrest announced. She faces charges including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, witness tampering and making false statements to law enforcement.

"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", said Richard P. Donoghue, Interim U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of NY.

Additionally, authorities said Harris defrauded FEMA out of almost $25,000 in funds, claiming she'd been forced from her Coney Island residence as a result of superstorm Sandy.

Prosecutors say Harris submitted fake receipts and forged documentation in 2016 when the NYC Build It Back Program informed her that it had approved funding to elevate her Coney Island residence and that she could be eligible for temporary-relocation assistance while such repairs were underway.

Harris, a former correction officer elected as a Democrat in November 2015, represents Bay Ridge, Coney Island, Dyker Heights and other Brooklyn communities.

This is a breaking news story. "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. 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", he added.

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

New York City Department of Investigation (DOI) Commissioner Mark G. Peters described to the charges as being a result of "brazen corruption".

Between July 2015 and last January, authorities said Harris "committed a almost identical scheme" while she was a state assemblywoman. She again deceived the Council by saying the funds would be used for rental space.

Harris also filed for false bankruptcy protection in 2013, officials said.

To establish in bankruptcy court that she could cure any arrears, the indictment says Harris inflated her monthly income by falsely representing to the court that she was getting $1,200 in financial assistance every month from the individual identified as Landlord #2. Both statements were false.

According to officials, after Harris became aware of a grand jury investigation into her alleged fraud schemes early past year, she told witnesses to lie to FBI investigators, "which the witnesses did", according to the indictment.

Unrelated to Tuesday's indictment, Brook-Krasny, the former assemblyman whom Harris succeeded in office, faces criminal charges as well.



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