Feds sentence Pamela Harris to six months behind bars

Locals call on Coney Island assemblywoman to resign after indictment for fraud and obstruction
Associated Press / Mary Altaffer

Disgraced former Coney Island assemblywoman Pamela Harris was sentenced on Oct. 24 to six months in prison for fraud.

Harris had pleaded guilty to stealing thousands of dollars from the city and from federal storm-recovery agencies in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy to pay for a life of luxury with cruises and clothes.

U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein additionally sentenced the former pol to 400 hours of community service and three years of supervised release. She will surrender on Dec. 4, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

Harris made up a false story, backed up with forged documents, that her family was forced out of their Coney Island home into a rental apartment on Staten Island after Sandy, charging the supposed rent to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for two years after the 2012 storm, and pocketing nearly $25,000 in the scam.

She also bagged more than $45,000 of Council money allocated to her for renting an office for her youth organization, The Coney Island Generation Gap, between August 2014 and January 2017. She got those funds with a forged lease agreement and then transferred the money into her own bank account, using the dough to pay off her mortgage, go on lavish vacations, and go on shopping sprees at Victoria’s Secret.

The politician obstructed the investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation by pressuring family members and associates of the Generation Gap group to lie to federal agents, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Harris’s behavior was a textbook example of political corruption, which deprived money from her constituents in the aftermath of a disaster, and undermined trust in public officials more broadly, according to the commissioner of the city’s Department of Investigation.

“Her illegal conduct exemplifies the term ‘corrupt politician,’ claiming to be a public servant while she stole from disaster relief funds intended to assist victims of Hurricane Sandy, some of whom were constituents in her district trying to recover from the storm,” said Mark Peters. “This type of corruption is what saps public confidence in government. Today’s sentencing offers a measure of justice.”

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.