New York Dem Charged With Stealing Hurricane Relief Funds

New York State Assemblywoman Pamela Harris of Brooklyn

New York State Assemblywoman Pamela Harris of Brooklyn

A Brooklyn assemblywoman will be arraigned Tuesday on charges that she lined her pockets with federal dollars meant for disaster relief after Hurricane Sandy.

Federal prosecutors said Ms. Harris, a 57-year-old Brooklyn Democrat, submitted fake documents to the Build it Back program, New York City's Sandy-recovery initiative, falsely claiming her home was damaged in the October 2012 storm.

As NBC New York points out, despite the fact Harris's biography calls her a "vocal advocate" for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, part of the money she allegedly stole was money designated for FEMA relief efforts.

According to the indictment, Harris allegedly used her position as executive director of a not-for-profit to get City Council to fork over $23,000 in discretionary funding between August 2014 and July 2015 by falsely claiming to use the money to rent a studio space.

In April 2017, her predecessor, Alec Brook-Krasny-who resigned in mid-2015-was among 13 individuals indicted for turning three Brooklyn clinics into pill mills that put more than 6.3 million opioids on the black market.

Harris is at least the 44th state lawmaker to face ethical or legal charges since 2000, according to a database the USA TODAY Network maintains. Harris, who at the time of her filing was getting $1,550 a month from FEMA as a result of the misrepresentations she made, told the Bankruptcy Trustee that she was receiving $1,200 a month in financial aid from the same landlord to whom she told FEMA she was paying $1,550 a month in rent.

'When she learned that law enforcement was investigating her various fraud schemes, she pressured witnesses to lie to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and cover them up, ' US Attorney Richard Donoghue told the Daily News.

To get CIGG's operations subsidized by the city, according to the indictment, Harris billed her nonprofit as a mentorship program that connected teens and young adults living in Coney Island to media arts.

The politician spent $10,000 of her ill-gotten gains on vacation getaways, covering airline and cruise tickets for the politician and her husband, officials charged.

"In the weeks immediately following her deposit of Check 377 into her personal checking account, Harris used the funds held in the account to make online payments to several retailers, including Victoria's Secret and Kohl's, to pay the monthly mortgage payment on the Coney Island Residence, and to purchase airline and cruise tickets for herself and her spouse totaling almost $10,000", the indictment states.

Instead, she's accused of diverting the cash into her checking account to pay for personal expenses. The same thing occurred with $35,000 in council funds awarded in 2016.

In response to media reports on the bankruptcy, Harris penned an open letter about her financial woes, describing a battle with breast cancer in 2006, her mother's pancreatic cancer and her husband's 2012 work injury.

Her Albany and district offices were not available for comment on Tuesday.

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