Councilman Wills arrested by attorney general’s office

By Rich Bockmann

City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) was arrested early Wednesday by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office, a law enforcement source said.

Wills was taken to the 112th Precinct in Forest Hills for processing around 7 a.m., said the source, who would not comment on the specific charges.

He was arrested along with a relative named Jelani Mills, who the source said works in the councilman’s office.

While the specific charges were not known, the AG’s office has had its eyes on a non-profit run by Wills for at least two years.

Authorities have been looking into New York 4 Life, a non-profit headed by Wills that received a $33,000 member item from former state Sen. Shirley Huntley in 2008 when Wills served as her chief of staff.

Huntley is currently in a federal re-entry facility in Brooklyn, nearing the end of a 366-day prison sentence after pleading guilty to embezzling public funds.

The investigation into New York 4 Life came to light in April 2012, when Schneiderman and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli filed a joint motion in Manhattan Supreme Court claiming Wills made numerous attempts to stymie their probe into the non-profit’s finances.

Court papers claimed Wills could provide only one undated and unnumbered invoice accounting for just how $980 of the $33,000 grant was spent. Wills later invoked his Fifth Amendment right when he was called in to testify about the non-profit’s handling of the grant.

In response then-Council Speaker Christine Quinn booted Wills from the budget negotiating team and prohibited him from doling out city funds to groups in his district. Wills was re-elected last year.

The arrest is just the latest in a long line of corruption cases in southeast Queens.

Authorities had been eyeing two non-profits connected to Huntley since at least 2011, and following her arrest state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) was nabbed with several others in an alleged plot to rig the 2013 mayoral race.

Smith’s trial begins next month.

The FBI in late March raided the offices of Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans) in connection with vouchers he submitted for per diem expenses in his travels to Albany.

Wills has a history of run-ins with the law dating back to before he was elected to office in a 2010 special election.

He has in the past been accused of failing to pay child support to an ex-girlfriend and stealing property from a Chinatown business he did contracting work for. He pleaded guilty to criminal mischief in the Chinatown case and has called the charges brought against him politically motivated.

Wills also made headlines by taking a swing at a campaign opponent during the Democratic primary for City Council in 2009, but no charges were filed.

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

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