SE Queens holds party to greet Huntley on return from prison

By Sarina Trangle

The Rev. Charles Norris Sr. and Clergy United for Community Empowerment welcomed former state Sen. Shirley Huntley back from prison with a party Tuesday.

Norris said close to 75 people gathered to greet Huntley, who represented Jamaica, Springfield Gardens and St. Albans in Albany, including representatives from U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks’ (D-Jamaica) office and state Assemblyman William Scarborough’s (D-St. Albans) office.

The homecoming bash was held at the Robert Ross Johnson Family Life Center.

“It was very well-attended,” Norris said of the event organized by CUCE, a coalition dedicated to empowering African Americans, where the minister serves as executive secretary. “She’s home and that’s good.”

Norris said CUCE was very proud to organize the party and emphasized that Huntley had served her time.

“She doesn’t owe anybody anything,” he said.

Huntley was sentenced to 366 days in prison after pleading guilty to mail fraud in an effort to cover up a scheme she used to pocket more than $87,000 from taxpayers.

But the Federal Bureau of Prison website shows she was released after about 10 months.

The Democrat allocated $87,700 in funding administered by the state Education Department to Parents Information Network Inc., a nonprofit she once ran.

Huntley admitted she mailed false documents in an attempt to make it appear as though the state funding was legitimately helping parents navigate the city’s school system rather than financing her personal expenses.

The former lawmaker was given a lighter sentence after she invited several elected officials to her home and secretly recorded conversations with them for the FBI, according to court documents.

One of her guests, Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis), is currently on trial in federal court in White Plains, N.Y., for allegedly attempting to bribe his way onto the Republican line in the 2013 mayoral elections.

Huntley’s former chief of staff, City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), has been charged with grand larceny and fraud for allegedly stealing some $30,000 in city and state grants, some of which his former boss allocated to a nonprofit he ran.

The FBI raided Scarborough’s office in March in connection with vouchers he submitted for travel expenses to Albany.

Smith, Wills and Scarborough have maintained their innocence.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@cnglocal.com.