Tuesday, 24 April, 2018

Brooklyn Assemblywoman Indicted on Fraud Charges

BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP  file BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP file
Charlie Simmons | 10 January, 2018, 02:05

A NY state assemblywoman has been indicted on fraud charges after authorities say she falsely claimed Superstorm Sandy forced her from her home.

Her lawyer, Joel Cohen, declined to comment prior to her arraignment, which was expected to occur within hours.

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.

William F. Sweeney, Jr., head of New York's FBI office, said that "when many residents in her district were dealing with the horrific aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Harris was busy brewing a storm of her own, one that resulted in her receiving significant payouts by the very federal agency charged with helping those truly in need". An obstruction-of-justice count alleged she convinced others to lie between last March and May after she became aware of a grand jury probe.

"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".

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.

'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.

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Associated plots sought to drain money from other government entities like the New York City Council, as well as hiding $10,010.08 from creditors in bankruptcy court, the indictment 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.

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.

Harris spent the money on household expenses, her mortgage, at stores like Victoria's Secret and on airfare and cruise tickets, according to prosecutors.

And in November 2013, she filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Brooklyn.

According to the indictment, Harris spent some of the proceeds of crimes on personal expenses, including airline and cruise tickets for herself and her spouse totaling almost $10,000.

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

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