The co-defendants in the case of former Sen. Shirley Huntley, a Queens Democrat, have pleaded guilty to a scheme involving theft of legislative member-item grant funds and a coverup, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced today.
Patricia Savage, Huntley’s aide and president of Parent Workshop, a bogus nonprofit that received the member-item grant, and Lynn Smith, Huntley’s niece and Parent Workshop’s treasurer, pleaded guilty to third-degree attempted grand larceny, a felony. Savage and Smith agreed to pay back the $29,950 they stole. They previously claimed the organization had provided workshops and outreach to parents, but it did not.
A third co-defendant, David Gantt, pleaded guilty to second-degree falsifying business records. He falsified records to claim he was paid in cash for conducting workshops, but he never gave the workshops. All three co-defendants are scheduled to be sentenced late next month in Nassau County Supreme Court.
Huntley pleaded guilty last week to felony charges for falsifying evidence in an attempt to obstruct an investigation into the member-item grant she sponsored for the bogus nonprofit. She admitted to tampering with physical evidence, a class E felony, which is punishable by a prison sentence of 18 to 24 months. Prosecutors recommended she serve five years of probation in exchange for the plea.
Huntley, a senator from 2007 through 2012, created a handwritten template for a false, backdated letter that was intended to show that Parent Workshop had conducted workshops. The letter was submitted to Schneiderman’s office in response to a subpoena.
“As a result of our investigation, the taxpayers of this state will be fully reimbursed for the money stolen through this scheme,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “There are no excuses for public officials and their associates who game the system to line their pockets, and then engage in a brazen cover up when their crimes are exposed.”
These weren’t the only criminal charges Huntley has faced. In late January, she pleaded guilty to federal charges she embezzled $87,700 in public funds in connection with the Parents Information Network Inc. She faces up to five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000 for conspiracy to commit mail fraud. She agreed to pay $88,700 in restitution.
The Legislature has given out more than $900 million in legislative member-item grants — also known as pork-barrel spending — to more than 20,000 nonprofits since 1999.