Ex-NY Assembly Woman Hit With Forfeiture Order

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – The same day New Yorkers voted on nominees to replace former Assemblywoman Pamela Harris, a federal judge in Brooklyn ordered the Democrat who was arrested in January to forfeit $10,000.

From left to right, attorneys Joel Cohen and Jerry Goldfeder stand outside U.S. District Court in Brooklyn with New York Assemblywoman Pamela Harris after her January 2018 arraignment on fraud charges. (AMANDA OTTAWAY, CNS)

Before her resignation on April 2, Harris represented District 46 in the state Assembly, which covers the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Coney Island and Dyker Heights. First elected in a 2015 special election, Harris became the first black woman to represent a majority white district in New York City.

She won re-election in 2016 but was arraigned in January of this year on charges that she lined her pockets with federal dollars meant for disaster relief after Hurricane Sandy.

Harris initially pleaded not guilty to all 11 counts and but entered a guilty plea in June to two counts of wire fraud, one count of witness tampering and one count of disaster relief fraud, or making false statements to the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

Her seat has been vacant since April 2 when she resigned.

The forfeiture order against Harris signed by U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein appeared on the docket Friday.

Separate from the disaster-relief charge, the two wire fraud counts to which Harris pleaded guilty implicate her in scamming a total of $76,165 from the New York City Council, money she purported to be using for rent on a studio for her nonprofit, the Coney Island Generation Gap.

To get the nonprofit’s operations subsidized by the city, according to the indictment, Harris billed it as a mentorship program that connected teens and young adults living in Coney Island to media arts.

Prosecutors say that once the city transferred the funds to CIGG’s checking account, Harris diverted money meant for the program’s rent to her personal bank account. They say she then used the money to buy plane and cruise tickets, as well as to make online purchases from Victoria’s Secret and Kohl’s.

Voters in Harris’ former district cast their ballots Thursday for her replacement as part of the state’s primary election for state offices.

As of Friday morning, the Democratic race to replace Harris was too close to call and votes were still being counted. Ethan Lustig-Elgrably had 2,990 votes to Mathylde Frontus’s 3,060, according to Kings County Politics.

Ironically, Lustig-Elgrably has claimed his work on Hurricane Sandy relief as one of the reasons people should vote for him. He’s the former chief of staff to New York City Councilmember Mark Treyger.

Either Lustig-Elgrably or Frontus will take on Republican Steven Saperstein for the 46th District seat in November.

One of Harris’ lawyers, Jerry H. Goldfeder of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, wrote to the court in June that his client had “secured part-time employment providing catering for clients in New York City and New Jersey.” He declined to comment on the forfeiture order, and also would not comment on how Harris has spent her time since the indictment, pointing only to the court papers.

Harris is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 26. She may also be ordered to pay restitution.

A spokesman from the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment Friday.

%d bloggers like this: