Ex-lawmaker pleads guilty to misusing Superstorm Sandy funds

June 12, 2018

FILE - This Jan. 9, 2018 file photo shows Pamela Harris as she leaves Brooklyn Federal court with attorney, Jerry H. Goldfeder, left, in New York. The former New York lawmaker accused of ripping off an arts nonprofit and a disaster relief fund has pleaded guilty Tuesday, June 12, 2018 to federal fraud charges. Harris was accused of pocketing $25,000 in federal funds by falsely claiming Superstorm Sandy chased her from her Coney Island residence in 2012. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — A former New York state assemblywoman accused paying a Victoria’s Secret bill and other personal expenses with money meant for families displaced by Superstorm Sandy pleaded guilty Tuesday.

Pamela Harris was indicted in January following allegations she pocketed $25,000 in federal funds by falsely claiming the storm chased her from her Coney Island home. Authorities said the Brooklyn Democrat committed other frauds, including cheating the New York City Council out of discretionary funds meant for nonprofits.

She faces up nearly five years in prison at her sentencing on Sept. 26.

Harris also spent stolen money on airline and cruise tickets for herself and her spouse totaling nearly $10,000, according to the indictment. She also made online payments to several retailers and paid her monthly mortgage, the indictment says.

Prosecutors also say Harris convinced others to lie after she became aware of a grand jury probe.

Harris is a former correction officer who was elected in November 2015. She represented Brooklyn communities, including Bay Ridge, Coney Island and Dyker Heights.

More than 30 lawmakers have left office since 2000 over allegations of corruption or ethical wrongdoing, prompting regular calls for tougher ethics rules in state government.

Term limits and new restrictions on campaign contributions and income from side jobs have all been proposed and are likely to be debated again this year, though lawmakers have shown little interest in ambitious reform.

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