Former Brooklyn Assemblywoman Pamela Harris pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday to multiple fraudulent schemes, including a bogus claim she was a superstorm Sandy victim that netted her $25,000.
Harris, 57, of Coney Island, admitted scamming the Federal Emergency Management Agency by falsely claiming she had to move because of storm damage, and also pleaded to pocketing more than $45,000 she got from the City Council for a nonprofit she ran, Coney Island Generation Gap.
“Harris stole grant money allocated for underprivileged children and young adults and lied to obtain funds set aside for those displaced by Hurricane Sandy,” said U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue. “ . . . Elected officials are not above the law.”
Harris, a Democrat elected to the state Assembly in 2015, was charged in January and resigned her seat in April. She also pleaded guilty to witness tampering. She faces up to 90 years in prison, but a recommended sentence between 46 and 57 months under federal sentencing guidelines.
In a statement after the plea, defense lawyers Joel Cohen and Jerry Goldfeder said Harris wanted to “move on with her life,” and hoped for a fair sentence at her scheduled Sept. 26 sentencing before U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein.
“We are hopeful that Judge Weinstein, particularly after reviewing her yearslong contributions to her community, exercises leniency at the sentence,” they said. “None of the conduct to which she pleaded guilty or with which she was charged relates to her having been a legislator.”
The government said in her Sandy scam Harris presented bogus lease agreements and rent receipts to prove the storm had forced her to move to a Staten Island residence, while in fact she continued to live at her home on Coney Island.
In two separate schemes before and after July 2015, she also allegedly twice raised $22,800 from the city to lease space for her nonprofit, used the money for personal purposes, and then pressured witnesses to lie to FBI agents after a grand jury investigation began.