Lawmaker Fraudulently Took Cash Meant for Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief, Prosecutors Say

Lawmaker Fraudulently Took Cash Meant for Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief, Prosecutors Say

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.

She was arrested Tuesday morning and was expected to make a federal court appearance for arraignment later in the day.

In July 2016, Harris allegedly arranged for Build It Back contractors to enter the residence adjacent to her Coney Island home by claiming on paperwork that her husband "was the owner "by will" of the neighboring structure.

Federal prosecutors said Ms. Harris, a 57-year-old Brooklyn Democrat, submitted fake documents to the Build it Back program, New York City's Sandy-recovery initiative, falsely claiming her home was damaged in the October 2012 storm. They say she committed other fraud, including cheating the New York City Council out of discretionary funds meant for non-profits.

The politician spent $10,000 of her ill-gotten gains on vacation getaways, covering airline and cruise tickets for the politician and her husband, officials charged.

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.

Harris also claimed the Staten Island landlord "was giving her $1,200 in monthly rental assistance while under oath during a bankruptcy hearing in 2013", according to the indictment cited by NBC New York.

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Instead, she's accused of diverting the cash into her checking account to pay for personal expenses. She's facing charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, making false statements, bankruptcy fraud, witness tampering and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said in a release that Harris defrauded the government of tens of thousands of dollars.

"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", Donoghue said in a statement.

If convicted, she faces 30 years in prison on one of the FEMA charges, 20 years on each wire fraud, conspiracy, witness tampering or obstruction of justice charges and five years on each bankruptcy fraud and false statement charges.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie's spokesperson told the Daily News that today is the first they have heard of the investigation into Harris.

In April 2017, her predecessor, Alec Brook-Krasny-who resigned in mid-2015-was among 13 individuals indicted for turning three Brooklyn clinics into pill mills that put more than 6.3 million 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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