Ex-state Sen. Shirley Huntley admits embezzling from nonprofit

New York State Sen. Shirley Huntley at the New York State Sen. Shirley Huntley at the Nassau district attorney's office in Mineola. (Aug. 27, 2012) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Former Queens state Sen. Shirley Huntley pleaded guilty Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court to embezzling more than $87,000 from a taxpayer-supported nonprofit that she controlled in a scheme paralleling a criminal fraud case against her in Nassau County.

The former legislator admitted she siphoned money out of the Parents Information Network, which was supposed to help families navigate the New York City public schools, by withdrawing cash for shopping trips from its bank account and laundering money through straw payments to supposed vendors who were in cahoots with her.

Huntley, 74, a Democrat who lost her seat in a primary last fall, was charged by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in Nassau County Supreme Court last year with taking money out of another nonprofit called Parent Workshop Inc., which she funded through legislative appropriations.

Schneiderman's office declined to comment on the effect the federal plea will have on that case. A person familiar with the case said Huntley is now expected to plead guilty to state charges that include tampering with evidence. She is accused of submitting a false backdated letter in response to a subpoena.

The federal conspiracy charge Huntley pleaded guilty to Wednesday included an accusation that an unnamed New York State "public official" took steps to make sure that the Parents Information Network received state Department of Education funds.

Huntley, the government said, notified the "public official" whenever state funds were transferred into the nonprofit's account, and the public official then joined her in using cash from the account to purchase "personal items during shopping trips." Afterward, the official allegedly took steps to continue the flow of money.

The charges did not explicitly accuse the "public official" of criminal conduct, and Huntley in her guilty plea did not reference the role of the unnamed official.

Huntley controlled the Parents Information Network from 1994 until 2008 and represented southeast Queens in the Senate from January 2007, until December 2012. The thefts occurred from 2005 through 2008.

Huntley faces up to 5 years in prison. She agreed to make restitution.

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