Lawmaker charged with pocketing Hurricane Sandy aid

Gladys Abbott
January 10, 2018

She committed similar scams to get $11,400 from City Council and got $25,000 from FEMA by falsely claiming that Hurricane Sandy forced her out of her home, while she was an assemblymember, according to the indictment.

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.

Pamela Harris, who oversees Coney Island, Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights of New York City, has been charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, making false statements, bankruptcy fraud, witness tampering and conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to papers filed by the New York Daily News. She is also accused of using the money to buy lingerie at Victoria's secret.

Between 2012 and 2014, Harris swindled FEMA out of almost $25,000 by falsely claiming to FEMA she had been forced out of her residence by Hurricane Sandy, according to the 11-count indictment unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn.

She was arrested on Tuesday morning, and is expected to make her first appearance in Federal court to be arraigned later in the afternoon. Authorities said her looting of government funds went on from 2012 through 2017.

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

She submitted fake lease agreements to FEMA that she had allegedly entered into with the landlord of the Staten Island residence, as well as fraudulent rent payment receipts, the indictment said.

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Harris claimed in a 2013 application to the NYC Build It Back program that she was living at the Coney Island residence.

Just a day before she told FEMA about her Staten Island rental, the indictment says Harris made a different claim to defraud the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Prosecutors say Harris caused two individuals, including Landlord #2, to lie to federal law enforcement agents conducting this investigation.

"The defendant defrauded government agencies out of tens of thousands of dollars in public funds and tried to fraudulently obtain even more", said U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue in a statement.

If convicted, Harris faces up to 30 years in prison.

New York Assemblywoman Pamela Harris, a Brooklyn Democrat, speaks during a debate in March 2016 in the state Assembly chamber at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y.

'They are very serious charges and it is important to let the justice system take its course, ' the spokesperson said.

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. But a federal appeals court ordered do-overs, applying a Supreme Court ruling that overturned former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's corruption convictions.

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