A Brooklyn assemblywoman will be arraigned Tuesday on charges that she lined her pockets with federal dollars meant for disaster relief after Hurricane Sandy.
The 11-count federal indictment filed against her this morning in Brooklyn describes a long-running scheme that predates her time in office. She is accused of pocketing money that was to cover a relocation to Staten Island in the wake of the storm. She represents Bay Ridge, Coney Island, Dyker Heights and other communities nearby. Her lawyer declined comment prior to her arraignment.
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.
"In furtherance of the scheme to defraud, Harris created fake lease agreements and receipts, forged Landlord #2's signature on the documents, and submitted those documents, along with the temporary housing applications, to FEMA, falsely representing that she had entered into a rental lease agreement with Landlord #2 and paid rent to live at the Staten Island residence in the months following Hurricane Sandy", the indictment states.
The indictments include two counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of making false statements, two counts of bankruptcy fraud, and one count of witness tampering and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, CBS New York reported. She also made other false claims to convince Build It Back to pay for significant construction to her home. She is also accused of using the money to buy lingerie at Victoria's secret.
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"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 United States Attorney Richard P. Donoghue.
She also is accused of keeping $23,000 in New York City money meant for Coney Island Generation Gap, a nonprofit she once led, and directing two people to lie to FBI investigators when they were interviewed in her case.
Harris, who was elected in November 2015 in a special election and returned to office in 2016, is also accused of defrauding a bankruptcy court and falsely claiming to have been forced out of her residence by Hurricane Sandy to get financial assistance, it said.
"We are just hearing of this".
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie's spokesperson told the Daily News that today is the first they have heard of the investigation into Harris. Term limits and new restrictions on campaign contributions and income from side jobs have all been proposed and are likely to be debated again this year, though lawmakers have shown little interest in ambitious reform. "That's not good for anyone".