Former Sen. Shirley Huntley, a Democrat from Queens, has pleaded guilty to felony charges for falsifying evidence in an effort to obstruct an investigation into a state grant she sponsored for a sham nonprofit, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced today. She pleaded guilty to tampering with physical evidence, a class E felony, and prosecutors recommended a sentence of five years of probation in exchange for the plea. The charge is punishable by a prison sentence of 18 to 24 months.
In late January, she pleaded guilty to federal charges she embezzled $87,700 in public funds in connection with the Parents Information Network Inc., Gannett’s Albany Bureau reported. She faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for conspiracy to commit mail fraud. She was released on a $100,000 bond. She agreed to pay $88,700 in restitution. Huntley was a senator from 2007 through last year. She lost a primary in 2012.
As for this week’s plea deal, Huntley and three individuals associated with the sham Parent Workshop Inc. group were previously indicted by the offices of Attorney General and Comptroller as part of the work of their Joint Task Force on Public Integrity. Huntley created the nonprofit and funneled funds intended to benefit the public to her aide and to her niece. According to the indictment, the president and treasurer of the nonprofit submitted fraudulent documents to the state to obtain the legislative member-item money and pocketed approximately $29,950.
Huntley was charged with falsifying evidence to obstruct the probe by creating a handwritten template for a false, backdated letter that said the group had conducted workshops,. She submitted the letter to Schneiderman’s office in response to a subpoena issued to the Parent Workshop. As part of the plea deal, Huntley admitted her involvement in the attempted cover-up.
“It is unconscionable that an elected official would deliberately tamper with a law enforcement investigation into the theft of taxpayer dollars,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Former Senator Huntley’s felony plea sends a strong message that those who abuse their positions to rip off taxpayers and tamper with investigations will be held accountable.”
Theft and obstruction charges are still pending against the other two defendants—Patricia Savage, former aide to Huntley and president of the Parent Workshop and Lynn Smith, Huntley’s niece and treasurer of the group. They falsely claimed the organization would use the money to hold workshops for and conduct outreach to parents on the workings of the New York City public school system. The two are each charged with multiple felony counts of third-degree grand larceny and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing. The maximum sentence for one county of third-degree grand larceny is 2-1/3 to seven years in prison.
Defendant David R. Gantt is charged with conspiring with Huntley to submit false evidence in response to a subpoena. He falsified records to claim he was paid in cash for conducting workshops as a consultant, although he never gave any workshops, according to the indictment. He is charged with four counts of tampering with physical evidence, four counts of first-degree falsifying business records and one count of fifth-degree conspiracy.