Former Assemblymember Pamela Harris, who resigned from her 46th District seat after an arrest earlier this year, has been sentenced to six months in jail following conviction on multiple counts of fraud and on witness tampering.
Harris defrauded both FEMA’s disaster relief efforts following Hurricane Sandy and a charity for underserved children in Coney Island, stealing just over $70,000, according to the US Attorney. Now, she’s sentenced to six months in prison and 400 hours of community service.
Along with the sentence, the former Assemblymember was hit with $70,400 in restitution payments and a $10,000 forfeiture.
“With today’s sentence, Pamela Harris has been held responsible for stealing tens of thousands of dollars in government funds set aside for underserved children and funds
allocated for victims of Hurricane Sandy, as well as lying and presenting fraudulent documents to the FBI when her crimes were uncovered,” stated United States Attorney Richard Donoghue.
“She committed these fraudulent acts both before and while she served as a New York State Assemblywoman in Brooklyn, betraying the trust placed in her by her constituents,” he added.
Capitalizing on the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy, Harris defrauded FEMA out of nearly $25,000 in reconstruction money between 2012 and 2014. In order to steal money intended for New Yorkers who had lost their homes, Harris falsely claimed the storm had forced her from her damaged Coney Island home into a temporary home in Staten Island.
In reality, Harris stayed put in her Coney Island home, pocketing the FEMA relief money while dummying up a fake lease agreement with Staten Island landlord and fabricating fake rent receipts, according to the US Attorney.
But the fraud didn’t stop there: between August 2014 and July 2015, Harris was the executive director of the non-profit organization Coney Island Generation Gap, where she stole $22,800 in discretionary funding from the New York City Council. Claiming the money would be used to rent studio space, Harris forged a lease agreement and diverted the money to her personal checking account, where she spent it on personal purchases.
Harris won her election to the State Assembly in November 2015, despite some scrutiny of her past finances: she had previously filed for bankruptcy and owed considerable sums in back taxes and mortgage payments. Harris attributed the financial woes to a series of health crises, including a battle with breast cancer.
Once in office, however, now Assemblymember Harris kept up with the fraud. From July 2015 to January 2017, she continued to defraud the City Council through the non-profit rental space scheme, diverting another $22,800 in city money to her personal accounts.
Harris was arrested and charged with fraud in January 2018, resigning from her seat months later, in April. Challengers lined up to replace her in the 46th District seat, which represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Gravesend and Sea Gate. In a September Democratic primary, Mathylde Frontus narrowly beat Ethan Lustig-Elgrably for the nomination.
Now, Frontus will face off against Republican candidate Steve Saperstein in the November 6 election to fill Harris’ vacant seat.