State lawmaker pleads not guilty in fraud case

Tammy Harvey
January 10, 2018

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

Harris is accused of defrauding the New York City Council, the city's Department of Youth and Community Development, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city's Build it Back Program and U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of New York.

In one aspect of the case, between 2012 and 2014 Harris defrauded FEMA out of almost $25,000 by falsely claiming she had been forced out of her home by Hurricane Sandy.

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 the second person in a row to represent the 46th Assembly District in Brooklyn to have been indicted.

Harris is at least the 45th state lawmaker to face ethical or legal charges since 2000, according to a database maintained by the USA TODAY Network. She continued to live at her Coney Island residence and pocketed the FEMA payments.

Before and during her tenure as assemblywoman, Harris allegedly went to great lengths to defraud local and federal agencies, FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney said in a statement.

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.


Where her Coney Island neighbors saw devastation, crooked state Assemblywoman Pamela Harris envisioned opportunity - and cashed in. Harris allegedly used the money for vacations, cruise tickets and even her lingerie bill at Victoria's Secret.

Once the city transferred the funds to CIGG's checking account, taking its balance from $772 to more than $43,000, Harris diverted the amount meant for rent to her personal bank account, according to the indictment.

In Nov. 2013, before she became an elected official, Harris filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Brooklyn and misrepresented her financial situation at the time, per court documents.

Prosecutors say CIGG won another $35,000 in discretionary funding from the city council for fiscal year 2016.

To establish in bankruptcy court that she could cure any arrears, the indictment says Harris inflated her monthly income by falsely representing to the court that she was getting $1,200 in financial assistance every month from the individual identified as Landlord #2.

Pamela Harris, 57, from Brooklyn, was charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, making false statements, bankruptcy fraud, witness tampering and conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to the New York Daily News.

Harris' office did not immediately respond to a Law&Crime request for comment.

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