Former New York State Senator from Queens Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Defraud State of More Than $87,000
Defendant Embezzled Funds from Publicly Funded Charitable Organization
This week, at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, New York, former New York State Senator Shirley Huntley pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging her with conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Huntley served in the New York State Senate, representing the 10th District in Queens, from 2007 to 2012. During part of the time of the charged conspiracy, Huntley was a sitting state senator.
The guilty plea was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and George Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office.
As charged in the information, Huntley ran a Queens non-profit organization known as Parents Information Network Inc. (PIN) that received public funds to help educate parents about the New York City public school system. From October 2005 through October 2008, Huntley embezzled approximately $87,700 from PIN. In furtherance of this scheme, Huntley falsely certified to New York State that these funds would be used, and had been used, to support PIN’s charitable mission. Instead, Huntley used the money for her own personal benefit and for the benefit of her family members and associates. During this time period, PIN received nearly all of its funding from New York State.
Huntley controlled PIN’s finances through a bank account that held PIN funds. Huntley stole from PIN by writing over $21,000 in checks from the PIN account to herself and a family member. Huntley used $500 of PIN funds to pay her personal credit card bill and embezzled more than $34,000 from PIN through ATM withdrawals. Huntley also embezzled funds from PIN by using straw recipients, who posed as legitimate recipients of payments from PIN. Huntley wrote checks for $24,500 to the straw recipients, who cashed the checks and returned substantially all of the funds to Huntley in cash.
In her plea agreement with the government, Huntley agreed to make restitution of $87,700 to the New York State Department of Education for the funds she embezzled. In addition, Huntley also agreed to make restitution of $1,000 in connection with an unrelated bribery scheme involving a cargo-handling business at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The guilty plea took place before U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein. When sentenced, Huntley faces up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of $250,000, in addition to restitution.
“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, lining her own pockets at the expense of parents in need and, ultimately, their children,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “She will now be held to account for her crime. This guilty plea underscores our unwavering commitment to hold responsible those who abuse their authority and pursue their own financial interests instead of the public interest.” Ms. Lynch thanked the office of the New York State Attorney General and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for their assistance.
FBI Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos stated, “Because of the trust placed in them, elected officials should hold themselves to a higher ethical standard than the public at large. The law sets the bar lower, but still Huntley failed to clear it. In a sense, her victims are everyone whose confidence in government is undermined by such conduct.”
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Daniel Spector, Paul Tuchmann, and Alexander Solomon.