Published: Wed, January 10, 2018
World | By Camille Rivera

Brooklyn Assemblywoman Indicted on FEMA Fraud

Brooklyn Assemblywoman Indicted on FEMA Fraud

"Both before and during her tenure as a public servant, as alleged, Assemblywoman Pamela Harris went to great lengths to defraud local and federal agencies out of thousands of dollars", FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney said.

The 11-count indictment against 57-year-old Pamela Harris of Coney Island was unsealed Tuesday in federal court.

Harris represents Bay Ridge, Beach Haven, Brightwater Towers, Brighton Beach, Coney Island, Dyker Heights and nearby neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Her lawyer declined comment prior to her arraignment.

Harris is accused by federal prosecutors of four fraudulent schemes, including two separate plans to pocket Superstorm Sandy funding by falsely claiming the 2012 storm forced her from her Brooklyn home and into a Staten Island residence, according to the indictment.

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"At a time when many residents in her district were dealing with the horrific aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, 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", said William F. Sweeney Jr., assistant director-in-charge of the FBI's NY field office. 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.

In 2016, as a state assemblywoman, she submitted those fake documents to the city's Build it Back Program to obtain additional assistance for "substantial construction to her home", the indictment said.

Harris was elected to the city council in 2015.

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.

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According to the 21-page federal indictment, Harris defrauded the City Council of almost $23,000 by falsely claiming the money would cover the rent for a Brooklyn nonprofit.

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. She provided fake lease agreements and receipts, and forged the landlord's signature, said prosecutors.

"In the weeks immediately following her deposit of Check 377 into her personal checking account, Harris used the funds held in the account to make online payments to several retailers, including Victoria's Secret and Kohl's, to pay the monthly mortgage payment on the Coney Island Residence, and to purchase airline and cruise tickets for herself and her spouse totaling almost $10,000", the indictment states.

Just six months before she submitted her November 13, 2013, petition for bankruptcy with her husband, according to the indictment, Harris opened a new bank account and deposited $10,000 into it that same day.

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Unrelated to Tuesday's indictment, Brook-Krasny, the former assemblyman whom Harris succeeded in office, faces criminal charges as well.

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