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NY Assemblywoman Pamela Harris Indicted On Fraud, Witness Tampering Charges

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York State Assemblywoman Pamela Harris faces multiple federal corruption charges for allegedly stealing federal and city funds.

An indictment charges the 57-year-old assemblywoman representing Bay Ridge, Coney Island, Dyker Heights and other nearby communities, with two counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of making false statements, two counts of bankruptcy fraud, one count of witness tampering and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Between 2012 and 2016, Harris is accused of defrauding the New York City Council, the city's Department of Youth and Community Development, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city's Build it Back Program and U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of New York.

"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," stated U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue. "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."

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.

"While she was in the assembly, she stole from New Yorkers and stole city funds that were intended to go for children who needed them," Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters said. 

As CBS2's Tony Aiello reported, Harris used to run the not-for-profit Coney Island Generation Gap.

Prosecutors say she applied for and misused $23,000 in funds from the City Council. Instead of spending it on children, she allegedly bought airplane and cruise tickets and paid off her Kohl's and Victoria's Secret retail accounts. 

"I think it's wrong. If you're doing something for children, it should go to children, especially children in need, and maybe not to the person's pocket, allegedly," Coney Island resident Shawn Foster said.

Harris and her husband, Leon, live on Neptune Ave in Coney Island. After Superstorm Sandy, she's accused of lying about damage, claiming the storm left their house uninhabitable, and allegedly stole $25,000 in FEMA housing assistance.

"She filed false forms to get disaster relief money to which she wasn't entitled," said Peters.

To top it all off, prosecutors say Harris convinced witnesses to lie to federal law enforcement agents conducting the grand jury investigation.

Under New York law, Harris can continue to serve the assembly and collect her $80,000 a year salary until the case is resolved. She pleaded not guilty and was released on bail Tuesday night.

The previous assembly member for her district was Alec Brook-Krasny, who resigned in 2015 and was indicted last year for Medicaid fraud.

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