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Former Brooklyn Assemblymember Pamela Harris pleads guilty to wire fraud, witness tampering

Also pleads guilty to making false statements to FEMA after Superstorm Sandy

June 12, 2018 By Clarissa Sosin Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Former Assemblywoman Pamela Harris, seen here leaving Brooklyn Federal Court after a hearing in Jan. with attorney Jerry H. Goldfeder following, pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud, one county of making false statements to FEMA and one count of witness tampering on Tuesday. Harris faces up to 30 years in prison on the top charge of making false statements. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

It wasn’t until she read her statement to the court that former South Brooklyn Assemblymember Pamela Harris began to cry. It started with a waver in her voice, her head bowed down over a piece of paper as she read her account of the crimes.

Harris, who represented Bay Ridge, Coney Island, Bath Beach and Dyker Heights, plead guilty in federal court to four out of the original 11 counts on the indictment on Tuesday. She appeared in front of United States Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy and admitted guilt to two counts of wire fraud, one count of making false statements to FEMA, and one count of witness tampering.

Sniffing periodically as she read, she described how she falsified applications for discretionary funds from the New York City Council and then wired those funds to her personal bank account. She recounted how she lied about living with her twin sister on Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy to receive disaster money from FEMA. She paused part way through her statement, saying “pardon me” to the judge, before telling the court how she told her sister to lie to the FBI when she found out she was under investigation.

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Harris’s case follows in the wake of other high profile corruption cases in New York State such as the conviction of former top aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in March, and the retrial and reconviction of former Democratic Speaker of the New York State Assembly Sheldon Silver last month.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Harris defrauded the New York City Council of a $45,600 total and FEMA of approximately $25,000 between 2012 and 2017. She faces a maximum of 30 years in prison for making false statements to FEMA, and a maximum of 20 years in prison for the wire fraud and witness tampering charges.  

In a statement given out after the hearing, Harris’s attorneys Joel Cohen and Jerry Goldfeder wrote that they hoped Judge Jack B. Weinstein, the judge assigned to the sentencing, would be lenient in his sentencing. They emphasized that none of the charges were related to her time in as an Assemblymember and they wrote that she “admitted her guilt in an effort to move on with her life.”

Harris is set to appear again in court for her sentencing on Sept. 26 at 10:30 a.m.

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