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Once again the people of Queens have learned that a leader they trusted has been picking their pockets.
Former state Sen. Shirley Huntley pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court last week to committing mail fraud in order to cover up a scam that bilked taxpayers out of $87,000.
The woman who sat on southeast Queens’ District 28 school board before being elected to the Senate in 2007 admitted in court that she embezzled the money from Parents Information Network Inc., a nonprofit she ran from 1994-2008.
She then falsified records to make it appear as though the funds were legitimately used to help parents navigate the city’s school system. She admitted in court that she used the money to pay off credit cards and purchase items for herself.
Because of her plea bargain, instead of the maximum sentence of five years in jail, she will face a sentence of 18-24 months plus three years’ supervision. She will also have to repay the $87,000.
The former senator still faces state charges.
In August, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman indicted Huntley on charges of submitting false documents in order to embezzle $29,950 in member items the legislator set aside for the Nassau County-based Parent Workshop, a nonprofit headed by her niece.
After the hearing in Federal Court, Huntley had nothing to say to the press. That’s regrettable. She owes southeast Queens voters who put their trust in her an apology as well as her niece and aide whom she allegedly dragged down with her.
The poignant words of U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch will be Huntley’s lasting legacy: “Huntley’s experience and influence were supposed to be used for the benefit of her constituents. Instead, Huntley used her knowledge of the system to steal funds intended to help some of her neediest constituents ....”
We’d like to think that this will be a cautionary tale for legislators and the heads of the nonprofits that serve New Yorkers.
That would be wishful thinking. Only continued vigilance on the part of federal and state prosecutors and a healthy skepticism on the part of the average citizen will lessen the chances of this happening again.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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