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New York Times Brooklyn Assemblywoman Is Indicted in Alleged Scheme to Bilk Agencies

ALBANY, N.Y. — Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn announced an 11-count indictment against a Brooklyn assemblywoman on Tuesday, alleging a raft of fraud, witness tampering and other charges, just the latest allegation of corruption and bad behavior among legislators in Albany.

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Pamela Harris, center, leaves Brooklyn Federal court with attorney, Jerry H. Goldfeder, rear, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in New York play

Pamela Harris, center, leaves Brooklyn Federal court with attorney, Jerry H. Goldfeder, rear, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in New York

(WABC-TV)

The Assembly member, Pamela Harris, a Democrat who represents Bay Ridge, Coney Island and several other south Brooklyn neighborhoods, was accused of four counts of making false statements, two counts of wire fraud, two counts of bankruptcy fraud, and a single count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, witness tampering and conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to Richard P. Donoghue, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Harris, 57, a retired New York City correction officer who was elected in a special election in 2015, was arraigned Tuesday afternoon before a U.S. magistrate after prosecutors released a lengthy dissection of her alleged crimes.

In one scheme, authorities accused Harris of trying to capitalize on a natural disaster, improperly receiving nearly $25,000 in federal funds by falsely claiming that she had been displaced from her Coney Island home by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In another, she is accused of siphoning money from a nonprofit she ran to pay her mortgage, take vacations and shop at Victoria’s Secret, according to the indictment.

Harris pleaded not guilty to all 11 charges. Her lawyers, Joel Cohen and Jerry H. Goldfeder, called Harris an “invaluable community organizer and a well-regarded legislator.”

“We are disappointed that Ms. Harris was indicted,” the lawyers said, noting that none of the charges were related to her conduct as a lawmaker.

Lawmakers in the Capitol seemed surprised by the news, which broke just as the Legislature was starting its business on Tuesday morning.

Charles Barron, a fellow assemblyman from Brooklyn, said the charges were shocking and sad, if still unproven, and bound to reflect badly on the state Assembly, whose former leader, Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, was convicted of federal corruption charges in 2015. (Silver’s conviction was vacated last year, but he is expected to be retried in 2018.)

“Once you violate the trust of the people,” Barron said, “that makes it very, very difficult.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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