Assemblywoman from Brooklyn charged in fraud scheme involving Superstorm Sandy funds

Assemblywoman from Brooklyn charged in fraud scheme involving Superstorm Sandy funds

Harris looted tens of thousands of dollars in state and federal funds in several scams - and then tried to cover up her crimes, according to a newly-unsealed federal indictment.

Harris, who was elected in 2015, allegedly defrauded City Council, the city's Department of Youth and Community Development, FEMA, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city's Build It Back Program and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of NY. Her arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ramon Reyes, Jr.

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 joined the Assembly in a special election in 2015 and was reelected a year later, but federal prosecutors said she was scheming before she took office when she headed a non-profit group helping kids in Coney Island. An obstruction-of-justice charge alleges she convinced others to lie between last March and May after she became aware of a grand jury probe.

Among the agencies Harris allegedly defrauded: The city's Department of Youth and Community Development, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the city's Build it Back Program.

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Harris faces more than 50 years in prison if she is found guilty of the charges. 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.

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.

She submitted a forged lease agreement to DYCD, the government entity that manages and doles out the Council's discretionary fund.

For example, Harris allegedly obtained $23,000 in funding from NYC Council to rent studio space when she was the executive director of a not-for-profit organization.

Along with airline and cruise tickets, the money went toward clothing from Victoria's Secret.

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Between July 2015 and January 2017, Harris committed a almost identical scheme-but this time as a sitting Assemblywoman.

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.

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.

Her predecessor in the Brooklyn district, Alec Brook-Krasny, was indicted previous year in connection with the takedown of three pill mills accused of putting $6.3 million of opioids on the black market.

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

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