Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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Queens Councilman Arraigned on Fraud Charges

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City Councilman Ruben Wills is facing a long list of corruption charges, the end of a lengthy investigation by the state attorney general's office, but the Queens lawmaker is strongly denying the accusations, saying he will fight them every step of the way. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

City Councilman Ruben Wills was hit with public corruption charges by State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Wednesday.

"This and every public corruption arrest our office makes sends a message that elective office does not come with a blank check and that no one is above the law," Schneiderman said.

Wills told reporters outside court that he was innocent.

"I am not resigning on charges," Wills said. "This is America, people."

Led out in handcuffs at a local Queens precinct in the morning, the councilman was defiant leaving court, suggesting he may not be given a fair hearing because of his race.

"I know because of where I come from and the color I am, it doesn't usually work like that with you guys, but I am presumed innocent, and that's what we are going with. Alright?" Wills said.

"It's absurd," Schneiderman said. "We obviously are going after all races, colors and creeds when it comes to public integrity."

Wills is charged with two separate schemes to steal $30,000 in city and state funds.

Some of that cash was public matching money that he was supposed to use for his City Council campaign. The rest was supposed to go to a nonprofit group that Wills controlled called New York 4 Life. The state gave the group cash for programs for single mothers and childhood obesity. Instead, the councilman allegedly used the money for himself, including at Macy's and on a Louis Vuitton bag.

"Taxpayer money that was supposed to be used to help children in need," Schneiderman said. "This is about as low as you can get."

This is not the first person in Wills' circle to end up in the crosshairs of the attorney general. His old boss, former state Senator Shirley Huntley, is serving time for embezzlement.

The councilman was swarmed by media for several blocks down Queens Boulevard after his arraignment as he made the long walk back to his attorney's office.

"Nobody was here to cover all the other things we did," he said. "Unbelievable."

The councilman did not take specific questions about the charges, but he said he would respond to them eventually sometime within the next two weeks.

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