Huntley pleads guilty to fraud

By Rich Bockmann

Former state Sen. Shirley Huntley, who just two weeks ago admitted in federal court to stealing thousands in taxpayer dollars from one of her sham non-profits, pleaded guilty again Wednesday to state charges of covering up a scam at another non-profit, authorities said.

Huntley was on southeast Queens’ District 28 School Board before being elected to the Senate in 2007 and served on the Education Committee.

She pleaded guilty in Nassau County Wednesday to filing false documents to hide from authorities the theft of $29,950 from a nonprofit she set up ostensibly to help parents get more involved in schools, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced.

“It is unconscionable that an elected official would deliberately tamper with a law enforcement investigation into the theft of taxpayer dollars,” Schneiderman said. “Former Senator Huntley’s felony plea sends a strong message that those who abuse their positions to rip off taxpayers and tamper with investigations will be held accountable.”

According to the AG, Huntley funneled state money to the Parent Workshop, which was run by her niece and an aide. After the two were indicted on charges they misappropriated the funds, Huntley wrote a false, backdated letter intended to throw off investigators, Schneiderman said.

She pleaded guilty to tampering with physical evidence.

Theft and obstruction charges are still pending against the two non-profit staffers.

Late last month, Huntley was in Brooklyn federal court, where she pleaded guilty to mail fraud charges in a similar scheme in which more than $87,000 set aside for the Parent Information Network went to line the disgraced former lawmaker’s pockets and those of her friends.

The AG said that since Huntley was facing up to two years in prison on the federal charges, a sentence of five years’ probation was recommended in exchange for her guilty plea.

The full extent of Huntley’s schemes may not yet be revealed. A source said investigators will soon turn up the heat on City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), who has been in the cross hairs since last March when he refused to cooperate with a probe by state authorities into a $33,000 state grant Huntley sponsored in May 2008 for New York 4 Life, a nonprofit Wills ran while he worked on her staff.

After he was subpoenaed by both the state attorney general’s and state comptroller’s offices last year, Wills showed up with an undated, unnumbered invoice accounting for only $980, court records show.

He later walked out of Schneiderman’s Manhattan office an hour into questioning after giving basic information like his name and address, choosing to invoke his Fifth Amendment right when drilled about the funds.

The Council responded by stripping Wills of his ability to allocate discretionary funds to nonprofits and launching an Ethics Committee investigation into his actions.

Wills said he has since provided further documentation to the attorney general’s office and added that reports of a possible investigation with new urgency were baseless.

“Dozens of not-for-profits were caught up in [the Huntley] investigation,” he said. “And because I’m the councilman, my case is getting all the press. There’s no urgency in it.”

When Huntley was in Brooklyn federal court, she said a member of the state Legislature helped funnel money to one of her phony groups and was rewarded with kickbacks and shopping sprees.

The New York Post reported a source identified state Assemblywoman Vivian Cook (D-Jamaica) as the public official.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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