With all her scheming, it’s a wonder Pam Harris was able to find the time to “work her butt off” protecting her constituents.
From NY Post: This is about as brazen as it gets. A Brooklyn assemblywoman bilked the city out of money meant for a children’s non-profit, lied under oath to extract cash from federal disaster-relief programs, and instructed witnesses — as a sitting assemblywoman — to lie about it to investigators, a bombshell 11-count indictment unsealed today (1/9/2018) alleges.
Officials say Assemblywoman Pam Harris, 57, accepted tens of thousands of dollars in City Council discretionary funds for a non-profit she ran before taking office — but instead funneled the dough into her personal bank account, before splashing the cash on lingerie from Victoria’s Secret, paying down the mortgage on her Coney Island home, and dropping $10,000 on airfare and cruise tickets for herself and her husband, a federal indictment alleges.
Harris forged a lease stating she was renting space for her Coney Island Generation Gap youth non-profit — in reality, she ran the group out of her own home and pocketed the money, the indictment states.
Council gifted her $42,740 on March 10, 2015 for rent, and one month later on April 10, 2015, she cut herself a $22,800 check from the group’s bank account with “rent” in the memo line and then deposited it into her personal bank account, investigators say.
She repeated the scheme the following year and obtained $33,450 from Council, but she and an unnamed co-conspirator “diverted the funds for Harris personal use,” the indictment states.
Harris is also accused of profiting off federal programs to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy. Her Neptune Avenue home was not damaged after the historic storm devastated Southern Brooklyn, but that didn’t stop her from collecting nearly $25,000 in temporary housing assistance money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
She allegedly fabricated a lease agreement between herself and a Staten Island landlord claiming he was charging her $1,500 a month to stay on the first floor of his building, and lied under oath by submitting it to the feds, prosecutors say. She repeated the lie when she applied for housing assistance through the city’s federally funded Sandy-recovery program Build It Back. Harris, a retired city correction officer, even complained the program was taking too long to fix her home — as she was milking it for taxpayer cash.
“I worked my butt off protecting this city for 24 years, and now, when I need help, I can’t get them to answer an email,” Harris whined to BrooklynDaily.com at the time. “I should be on the island of Bali right now, living it up, but I spent my 401-k to get my house back.”
Harris also schemed to defraud bankruptcy court by hiding investments and lying about her income when she filed for Chapter 13 protection in November 2013, prosecutors say.
Despite using taxpayer money to pay down her mortgage, she and her husband claimed they owed $60,000 on the property when they filed for bankruptcy in November 2013. But Harris failed to disclose a $10,000 money market account in her name that she created and filled in one fell swoop just seven months before, according to the indictment.
She also lied about the fake Staten Island rent payments — falsely testifying they were lower than the $1,500 she claimed top FEMA in order to obtain a favorable ruling from the bankruptcy court, which requires debtors prove they have the income to continue mortgage payments after bankruptcy.
Harris, who has represented Coney Island and Bay Ridge in the Assembly since 2015, caught wind of 2016 FBI investigation into her shady dealings and instructed two witnesses, including the Staten Island landlord, to lie to the feds amid their grand jury investigation, prosecutors allege.
“The brazen corruption charged as a result of this investigation tramples on the very definition of a public servant,” Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters said in a statement. “This elected official exploited the public she was elected to serve by stealing from City and federal programs and then concealing the fraud with false statements and asking witnesses to obstruct the investigation, according to the indictment.”
Harris was elected in a 2015 special election to fill a vacancy after Alec Brook-Krasny (another demorat) stepped down to take a job in a private-sector pharmaceutical company. He was later indicted for pumping $6.3 million in pain pills onto the black market.
Her finances raised red flags the following year when she ran for re-election, when The Post reported that she was claiming her Coney Island Generation Gap non-profit was based out of her home, despite accepting $26,000 that year in Council subsidies for “rent.”
Political mentor and Coney Island Councilman Mark Treyger has directed at least $65,000 in Council funds to Harris’s non-profit since 2014, public records show. Treyger, who is not named in the indictment, allocated $20,000 to the group from Council’s fiscal-year 2015 expense budget, city records show.
Her also sent $25,000 to Harris’s Coney Island Generation Gap the following year — along with $10,000 from the Brooklyn Delegation, which he co-chaired with Councilwoman Darlene Mealy. He gave her group $2,365 from his campaign coffers since 2014, records show.
“The allegations against Assemblywoman Harris are serious and troubling, and are deeply disappointing if true,” said Treyger campaign spokesman Aaron Hecht. “As elected officials, any breach of the public trust is a serious offense and must be fully investigated.”
Hecht said Treyger was not interviewed by investigators and has not been subpoenaed.
If convicted, Harris faces 30 years imprisonment for making false statements to FEMA; 20 years each on wire fraud conspiracy, two counts of wire fraud, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice conspiracy charges; and 5 years on five other fraud and false-statement charges, prosecutors said. She could also be required to pay back the ill-gotten gains, the indictment states.
A man answering Harris’s cell phone said she was not immediately available for comment. Her lawyer Joel Cohen declined to comment.