Brooklyn Assemblywoman Indicted on FEMA Fraud

In one incident in 2012 the 57-year-old allegedly turned Hurricane Sandy recovery into a money-making scheme by lying about damage to her Coney Island home. The indictment says she took nearly $25,000 from the agency and pocketed it because she did not

In one incident in 2012 the 57-year-old allegedly turned Hurricane Sandy recovery into a money-making scheme by lying about damage to her Coney Island home. The indictment says she took nearly $25,000 from the agency and pocketed it because she did not

A NY state lawmaker was accused of pocketing tens of thousands of dollars meant for Superstorm Sandy victims in an 11-count felony indictment unveiled Tuesday.

In one scheme, prosecutors accused Ms. Harris, 57, of improperly receiving almost $25,000 in federal disaster funds by falsely claiming that she had been displaced from her Coney Island home by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

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.

Court papers also claim Harris defrauded the City Council of almost $23,000 by saying, falsely, the money would go to pay rent for a Brooklyn nonprofit.

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. She continued to live at her Coney Island residence and pocketed the FEMA payments.

"This elected official exploited the public she was elected to serve by stealing from City and federal programs and then concealing the fraud with false statements and asking witnesses to obstruct the investigation, according to the indictment". She was charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, making false statements, bankruptcy fraud, witness tampering and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Court papers also claim Harris defrauded the City Council of nearly $23,000 by saying falsely the money would go to pay rent for a Brooklyn nonprofit
Court papers also claim Harris defrauded the City Council of nearly $23,000 by saying falsely the money would go to pay rent for a Brooklyn nonprofit

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.

"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.

Prosecutors say the city awarded CIGG more than $42,000 in discretionary funds for fiscal year 2015 based in part on fraudulent documentation supplied by Harris. 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.

Instead, she's accused of diverting the cash into her checking account to pay for personal expenses.

To make matters worse, once Harris was under investigation, prosecutors alleged that she instructed witnesses to lie to FBI agents during the grand jury investigation, which they did. There is a maximum sentence of five years for the bankruptcy fraud charges.

Along with airline and cruise tickets, the money went toward clothing from Victoria's Secret. She again deceived the Council by saying the funds would be used for rental space.

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