Tag Archives: Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

Wills investigated for missing $33,000 grant

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Councilmember Ruben Wills

A Queens councilmember is taking heat for failing to account for thousands of taxpayers’ dollars given to his non-profit organization.

Councilmember Ruben Wills is under investigation from State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman after he failed to account for a $33,000 grant for his nonprofit, New York 4 Life. He is also being reviewed by the city council.

“In light of troubling reports and court records evidencing Councilmember Wills’ lack of cooperation with a state investigation, including his assertion of his Fifth Amendment rights, we have referred this matter to the Council’s Standards and Ethics Committee for a formal review,” said Council representative Jamie McShane.

McShane added that Wills was removed from the Council’s Budget Negotiating Team and that all decisions about funding allocations for his district will be determined by Speaker Christine Quinn’s office.

Although New York 4 Life does not have a web page, the councilmember’s web site explains that the nonprofit is an organization “which has helped single mothers champion critical issues such as civic literacy and financial empowerment.”

The grant in question was reportedly approved from State Senator Shirley Huntley to New York 4 Life in 2008 for a single mothers’ breakfast, single fathers’ luncheon, a “children and youth obesity campaign,” and an “adopt a commercial strip” program, according to court filings.

However, after the money was paid by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) in September of 2010, neither Wills nor the organization responded with documents showing how the money was spent.

It is also unclear as to whether the events actually occurred.

The court papers also said the OCFS sent a letter to request the accounting of the grant or a refund in April, 2011, but the nonprofit didn’t respond, at which time OCFS contacted the Attorney General’s office.

Schneiderman’s office issued a subpoena in February of this year, but received no report of the money.

While meeting with lawyers from the AG’s office, Wills walked out during questioning, pleading the Fifth Amendment.

Published reports claim that Schneiderman has filed a motion to force New York 4 Life to open its books. Reports also claim that no tax returns were ever filed for New York 4 Life, which was initially registered to Wills’ residence, but was later changed to his 2009 campaign office.

Calls to Wills’ office for comment were not returned as of press time.

Wills was elected to office in November of 2010 by winning a Special Election, after the passing of Councilmember Thomas White Jr.


New foreclosure help

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

New legislation by Senator Malcolm A. Smith may increase settlements for victims of foreclosure abuse.

“Home purchasing is the largest single investment that individuals make in their lifetime,” said Smith. “Banks committed crimes against homeowners and restitution needs to be fair. I am introducing this legislation that I believe will bring parity to my constituents in the city and state of New York. I applaud the efforts of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to bring the banks to task for their erroneous dealings with home buyers.”

A settlement for $136 million was reached between the state and five of the nation’s most prominent mortgage service companies over perceived foreclosure abuse. According to a spokesperson from Smith’s office, this agreement includes relief for victims of wrongful foreclosure conduct and loan modifications, including “principal reductions for homeowners and funds that can be used to cornerstone foreclosure legal assistance and housing counseling programs.”

Under the attorney general’s proposed agreement, homeowners are expected to garner between $1,500 to $2,000 in retributions. Smith alleges that these amounts pale in comparison to the true monetary compensation homeowners should be given, calling them “unfair” and “insulting.”

According to Smith’s office, the proposed legislation could earn homeowners “the full amount of the down payment paid or 20 percent of the original appraised value of the qualifying residential real property.” If the eligible homeowner no longer lives in the house that was the subject of a foreclosure, they may qualify for the full amount of a down payment on new residential property.

“[Schneiderman’s effort] is the launching pad for my legislation which provides for increased financial payments to victims of the foreclosure crisis,” said Smith.