State Assemblymember Pamela Harris was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with defrauding an array of local and national government agencies and pocketing tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars in a shocking, years-long scheme, according to an explosive unsealed indictment.
The disgraced Coney Island-based Assemblymember pleaded not guilty to the charges Tuesday afternoon and was released on $150,00 bond, according to multiple reports.
Harris is facing 11 charges including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, making false statements, and bankruptcy fraud. The charges stem from her alleged actions before and after she took office. Altogether, she is facing decades behind bars on multiple counts.
The 57-year-old is accused of defrauding the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the tune of $25,000 between 2012 and 2014 when she allegedly lied about being forced out of her home by Hurricane Sandy. Harris then allegedly convinced Build It Back to give her even more money later on.
She continued to dig herself into a hole in 2013 when she lied in a bankruptcy scheme, according to the indictment.
The 57-year-old is facing further legal trouble after investigators found an apparent pattern between 2014 and 2017. Harris allegedly took $23,000 from City Council between 2014 and 2015 by forging a lease agreement intended for rental space for her not-for-profit, Coney Island Generation Gap. She is alleged to have deposited the funds into her personal account.
After taking office, prosecutors say Harris again stole money from City Council — $11,400 this time — by devising the same kind of rental scheme. Although she had moved on to her new gig as an elected official, she still allegedly transferred the money from the not-for-profit to her own account.
Once she realized she was being investigated, Harris is alleged to have told witnesses to lie to the FBI.
“As alleged in the indictment, the defendant defrauded government agencies out of tens of thousands of dollars in public funds and tried to fraudulently obtain even more,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Richard Donoghue said in a statement released Tuesday. “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. When she learned that law enforcement was investigating her various fraud schemes, she pressured witnesses to lie to the FBI and cover them up . . . ”
Among other agencies she is accused of defrauding include the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development.
Harris is facing 30 years for lying to FEMA; 20 years on each charge relating to wire fraud conspiracy, witness tampering, wire fraud, or obstruction of justice conspiracy; and five years “on each of the bankruptcy fraud or other false statements charges,” according to the indictment.