Brooklyn assemblywoman indicted on fraud, with SI Sandy connection

Posted January 10, 2018

A NY state assemblywoman has been indicted on fraud charges after authorities say she falsely claimed Superstorm Sandy forced her from her home.

Harris is accused by federal prosecutors of four fraudulent schemes, including two separate plans to pocket Superstorm Sandy funding by falsely claiming the 2012 storm forced her from her Brooklyn home and into a Staten Island residence, according to the indictment.

While her constituents struggled with the hurricane's devastation, "Harris was busy brewing a storm of her own - one that resulted in her receiving significant payouts by the very federal agency charged with helping those truly in need", said FBI New York field office head William Sweeney Jr.

In addition to the Hurricane Sandy-related frauds, Harris faces charges over an estimated $76,000 that the New York City Council awarded the nonprofit Coney Island Generation Gap, which Harris founded in 2003.

Her predecessor in the Brooklyn district, Alec Brook-Krasny, was indicted a year ago in connection with the takedown of three pill mills accused of putting $6.3 million of opioids on the black market.

During that time she was living in the home she'd claimed was damaged and filed phony rent payment receipts and a fake lease agreements for a residence on Staten Island, according to the court documents.

The 57-year-old lawmaker, who was first elected in 2015, is accused of fraudulently pocketing $25,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and failing to disclose it during her recent bankruptcy proceedings.

It notes that Harris and her husband lived in Coney Island in fall 2012 when Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Northeast. She was charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, making false statements, bankruptcy fraud, witness tampering and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said Harris defrauded the government of tens of thousands of dollars.

She also is accused of keeping $23,000 in New York City money meant for Coney Island Generation Gap, a nonprofit she once led, and directing two people to lie to FBI investigators when they were interviewed in her case.

Once the city transferred the funds to CIGG's checking account, taking its balance from $772 to more than $43,000, Harris diverted the amount meant for rent to her personal bank account, according to the indictment. There is a maximum sentence of five years for the bankruptcy fraud charges.

To make matters worse, once Harris was under investigation, prosecutors alleged that she instructed witnesses to lie to FBI agents during the grand jury investigation, which they did. Harris allegedly used the money for vacations, cruise tickets and even her lingerie bill at Victoria's Secret.

The final scheme described in Tuesday's indictment involves Harris' filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 2013 after she owed approximately $60,000 on her mortgage for the Coney Island property.

Unrelated to Tuesday's indictment, Brook-Krasny, the former assemblyman whom Harris succeeded in office, faces criminal charges as well.