EDNY prosecutors to request 33-41 months in prison for disgraced assemblymember Pamela Harris
Disgraced former Assemblymember Pamela Harris, who represented Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods including Bay Ridge and Coney Island, will be back in federal court on Thursday and when she makes her appearance prosecutors will be asking that she spend 33-41 months behind bars.
In a letter addressed to Justice Jack Weinstein, prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York officially requested a sentence within the advisory guidelines.
Harris was indicted by a grand jury on Jan. 8, 2018 on charges of wire fraud, conspiracy, disaster relief fraud, false statements, bankruptcy fraud, conspiracy to obstruct justice and witness tampering.
Harris resigned from the state Assembly on April 2.
On June 12, she pleaded guilty to four of these charges before magistrate judge Robert Levy, including two counts of wire fraud and one count of disaster relief fraud and one count of witness tampering.
In the letter, Richard P. Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for the EDNY, pointed out that even though she did not use her office to commit her fraud that she still betrayed her constituents by continuing her notorious deeds even after she was elected to office. He called her conduct serious, said it was not aberrational, and that theft from not-for-profits is a problem that requires a greater general deterrence.
“As an elected official who stole from the not-for-profit organization that she controlled, the defendant has done her unfortunate part to contribute to the public’s cynicism towards elected officials and cast doubt on the good works of honest public servants and reputable charities,” Donoghue wrote.
According to prosecutors, in Aug. 2014, Harris took money directed from City Council meant for a not-for-profit organization she ran by using it to pay for a phony apartment. She used a fraudulent lease agreement and forged a landlord’s signature before she wrote a check for $22,800 for herself from the not-for-profits bank account. She then used the money to make personal mortgage payments, purchased airline and cruise tickets, a hot tub, and also spent some of it at Kohl’s and Victoria’s Secret.
Even after she was elected on Nov. 3, 2015, she continued her pattern of stealing money meant for the not-for-profit even after she left with the help of a co-conspirator, prosecutors charged.
Her fraud wasn’t limited to just ripping off the City Council using her not-for-profit organization. After Hurricane Sandy, she claimed to have been forced from her house due to storm damage, but in reality, she used it as an excuse to steal money from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). From Nov. 2012 until Jan. 2014, she accepted FEMA checks for $1,550 a month in rent for temporary housing that she didn’t need and which in reality lasted only a few days.
Harris was also charged with bankruptcy fraud dating back to 2013, when she knowingly hid funds from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court so that she would not have to use those funds to pay back creditors during a bankruptcy she filed in 2011.
After she was indicted, Harris was slapped with additional obstruction of justice charges for interfering with the FBI investigation. She had texted one of the landlords involved in her scams and the person she supposedly lived with after Hurricane Sandy, telling them repeatedly to lie to FBI agents and to delete any text messages that might implicate her, according to prosecutors.
As part of her guilty plea, Harris has consented to pay two fines of $45,600 and $24,800 and had to pay another $10,000 that she hid from the bankruptcy trustee. She has paid the entire amount, according to prosecutors.
The top charge, which related to stealing money from FEMA, carried a potential 30-year prison sentence. However, due to her plea agreement, and her acceptance of responsibility, prosecutors are only going to ask for imprisonment in the rage of 33 to 41 months.
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