NY assemblywoman indicted on fraud and other charges

Assemblymember Pamela Harris who represents parts of Bath Beach Bay Ridge Brighton Beach Coney Island Dyker Heights and Seagate was indicted on fraud and cover-up charges on Tuesday. File

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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.

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.

Harris also allegedly lied and said her house had been so badly damaged that she had to move and even presented the government with fraudulent lease agreements and rent payments for another house in Staten Island.

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

"She conducted her schemes victimizing the federal and New York City governments, and then obstructed a federal investigation into her crimes while a sitting New York State Assemblywoman".

And she was also accused of looting almost $25,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency by lying about damage to her Coney Island residence 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.

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According to officials, after Harris became aware of a grand jury investigation into her alleged fraud schemes early previous year, she told witnesses to lie to FBI investigators, "which the witnesses did", according to the indictment. "This office and our law enforcement partners are committed to ensuring that those who serve the public are held accountable under the law to the same extent as the people they are privileged to serve".

If convicted, Harris faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for one of the charges related to making false statements to FEMA and a maximum of 20 years on each of the wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, witness tampering or obstruction of justice conspiracy charges, officials said.

New York City Department of Investigation (DOI) Commissioner Mark G. Peters described to the charges as being a result of "brazen corruption".

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.

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

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.

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