The rare Democrat, a woman of color representing her mainly White Brooklyn constituency was charged Tuesday with turning the nightmare aftermath of Hurricane Sandy into a money-making scheme by lying about the damage to her Brooklyn home.
Ironically during the contentious Democratic runoffs in 2015, retired corrections officer and community activist Pam Harris had pledged to address the issue of securing disaster recovery relief from Hurricane Sandy for her district.
On Tuesday, the 21-page federal indictment alleges that the Assemblywoman used relief funds to pay her lingerie tab at Victoria’s Secret.
She is accused of looting tens of thousands of dollars in state and federal funds in several scams, then tried to cover up her crimes, according to a newly-unsealed federal indictment.
Federal appeals quashes corruption convictions for former NY Senate majority leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam – Panel cites Scotus ruling in Bob McDonnell case
Once powerful NY Sen., John Sampson, jailed five years for lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice
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.
Describing the extent of the greed and scam, FBI New York field office head William Sweeney Jr. said ‘While her constituents struggled with the hurricane’s devastation, “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,” Sweeney Jr said.
She was arrested Tuesday morning and was expected to make a federal court appearance for arraignment later in the day. Authorities said her looting of government funds went on from 2012 through 2017.
Pamela Harris is accused of looting Federal Emergency Management Agency funds by lying about damage to her Coney Island residence by Hurricane Sandy in 2012
According to the indictment, Harris defrauded the City Council of nearly $23,000 by falsely claiming the money would cover the rent for a Brooklyn nonprofit.
She instead diverted the cash into her checking account to cover personal expenses in 2015, the indictment charged. The same thing occurred with $35,000 in council funds awarded in 2016.
And she was also accused of looting nearly $25,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency by lying about damage to her Coney Island residence by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Former NY House Speaker, Sheldon Silver, Jailed 12 Years On corruption Charges
Pamela Harris watches the results with supporters on the night of her historic victory at the polls, three years ago
Harris actually stayed in the undamaged house while allegedly filing phony rent payment receipts and a bogus lease agreement for a Staten Island residence.
Though still in Coney Island, she was compensated for temporary housing assistance.
Harris, elected to the assembly in a November 2015 special election, was also charged with trying to illegally collect funds from the city’s Build It Back program for Sandy victims.
Last year, when she became aware of the investigation, the elected official went to friends with a request that they lie to FBI agents, the indictment charged.
“When she learned that law enforcement was investigating her various fraud schemes, she pressured witnesses to lie to the FBI and cover them up,” said U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue.
Pamela Harris [center], at her 2015 inauguration [center], with Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer [D-NY] on her left
Harris, 57, could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of the top count in her 11-count indictment. She was charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, making false statements, bankruptcy fraud, witness tampering and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
“We are just hearing of this,” said Michael Whyland, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. “They are very serious changes and it’s important to let the justice system take its course.”
Her predecessor in the Brooklyn district, Alec Brook-Krasny, was indicted last year in connection with the takedown of three pill mills accused of putting $6.3 million of opioids on the black market.
The Harris indictment starts what looms as a year of corruption trials, starting this month with the prosecution of Joe Percoco, a former senior aide to Gov. Cuomo.
Disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos are up for retrial later this year in Manhattan federal court.
Juries convicted the ex-Albany powerhouses in separate trials. But a federal appeals court ordered re-trials, applying a Supreme Court ruling that overturned former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s corruption convictions.