A.G. Schneiderman and Comptroller DiNapoli Announce Jury Conviction Of Councilman Ruben Wills In Public Corruption Scheme
Jury Finds Wills Guilty Of Stealing Campaign Funds And Grant Money For Personal Benefit
Under State Law, Wills Will Be Required to Vacate City Council Seat
Wills Faces Up To Seven Years In Prison
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli recently announced the jury conviction of New York City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Queens) following an eleven-day trial that resulted in a guilty verdict on five of six counts related to Will’s theft of approximately $30,000 in public campaign funds and state grant money. The jury found Wills guilty of one count of a scheme to defraud in the 1st degree, two counts of grand larceny in the 3rd degree, and two counts of filing a false instrument in the 1st degree. The jury acquitted Wills on a single charge of filing false business records. In accordance with state law, upon sentencing, Wills will be automatically expelled from the New York City Council. Wills faces a maximum of seven years behind bars.
“Ruben Wills’ crimes were a shameful violation of the public trust. Now, after a conviction by a jury of his peers, Ruben Wills will face the consequences,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Ruben Wills stole taxpayer dollars to buy fancy purses and clothes for himself and his friends. New Yorkers deserved better. Today's conviction is another important step in our efforts to clean up New York politics and give voters the representation they deserve. I thank Comptroller DiNapoli and his staff for their continued and valuable partnership on Operation Integrity. My office will continue to hold accountable any public official who breaches the public trust and breaks the law."
“Councilman Ruben Wills stole public money and abused his position of trust,” State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said. “Thanks to the work of my staff and our partnership with Attorney General Schneiderman, we are targeting public corruption and holding public officials accountable for misuse of public resources.”
As state prosecutors argued at trial, Wills used public matching funds from his 2009 campaign for City Council to pay $11,500 to Micro Targeting, a shell company purportedly created to translate and distribute campaign literature. Prosecutors proved at trial that Micro Targeting never provided any campaign services, and that the money was instead redirected to a non-profit corporation called NY 4 Life, which Wills controlled. Wills withdrew the money and made a series of personal purchases, including at Macy’s, where he used a portion of the funds to purchase a $750 Louis Vuitton handbag.
Prosecutors also detailed how Wills used $21,000 in State grant funds for personal and political expenses.
The $21,000 was part of a $33,000 grant provided to NY 4 Life from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), earmarked by former State Senator Shirley Huntley while Wills was serving as Huntley’s chief of staff. The grant stipulated that the money had to be used to conduct four public service projects. Yet witnesses at trial testified that NY 4 Life only held one event, while Wills used approximately $21,000 of the funds for personal and political expenses, including at Nordstrom and Home Depot. Wills also used a portion of the money to pay individuals who had carried out campaign work for his City Council race.
Judge Ira Margulis presided over the trial, and scheduled sentencing for August 10th.
Since 2011, Attorney General Schneiderman, through his “Operation Integrity” partnership with Comptroller DiNapoli, has brought charges against dozens of individuals implicated in public corruption schemes around the state. The office has been able to return over $11 million in restitution to taxpayers through these convictions.
Assistant Attorneys General Travis Hill and John Chiara of the Public Integrity Bureau prosecuted the case. Legal Support Analyst Dillon Kraus provided important support. The Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Daniel G. Cort and Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronowitz. The Attorney General’s Criminal Justice Division is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Jason Brown.