Tag Archives: Rochdale

Councilman Ruben Wills arrested on corruption charges


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Updated 2:25 p.m. 

Councilman Ruben Wills was arrested Wednesday after a corruption investigation discovered he allegedly stole public campaign funds and state grant money.

The Queens politician, who represents the 28th District, which includes Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Rochdale and South Ozone Park, was indicted on charges of grand larceny, scheme to defraud, falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing, according to the indictment.

Jelani Mills, a relative who works for Wills, and allegedly helped him redirect some of the cash, was also indicted Wednesday on charges of grand larceny and falsifying business records.

Wills is accused of stealing from both the Campaign Finance Board (CFB) and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office.

He is charged with redirecting $11,500 in matching funds he received from the CFB during his 2009 City Council campaign–with the help of Mills–to New York 4 Life, a nonprofit Wills started, and using the money for personal purchases, according to court documents. Wills allegedly bought a $750 Louis Vuitton handbag at Macy’s, among other items. 

The councilman had been under investigation by the attorney general for $33,000 in state funds provided through a grant that was unaccounted for after it was given to New York 4 Life, according to published reports and the attorney general’s office.

Those funds were earmarked by former state Sen. Shirley Huntley while Wills was serving as her chief of staff.

New York 4 Life signed a contract with OCFS to receive that money, promising to conduct four public service projects, officials said, but the nonprofit allegedly only came through on one program that cost about $14,000. Wills is accused of pocketing the remaining $19,000 and using it for political and personal expenses, including purchases at Nordstrom’s and Century 21.

Huntley was arrested in a unrelated case in August 2012 and later pleaded guilty for covering up money funneled through a nonprofit she helped establish. It was revealed last May that Huntley had secretly recorded the conversations of seven elected officials, including Wills, while she was still in office at the request of federal prosecutors.

“The City Council takes these troubling allegations from the New York State Attorney General very seriously and will be reviewing them thoroughly, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement. “New Yorkers expect and deserve a government that is ethical and responsible and that is the standard we’re seeking to uphold.”

Wills, who was first elected to the Council in a 2010 special election, has been prohibited from doling out member items, or city funds, to his district, the Queens delegation chair and City Council speaker’s office will now designate them for him, reports and a source said.

He has also agreed to give up his chairmanship of the Council’s subcommittee on drug abuse, according to published reports.

Wills, who did not enter a plea and was released without bail, said Wednesday he had no plans to resign, reports said.

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City cashes out over 2010 blizzard


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

New York City is still settling with residents who suffered personal injuries or property damages during the blizzard of 2010 – and the costs continue to snowball.

Across the five boroughs, the city has already reached settlements on 620 claims, doling out $1,855,152.53 due to damages its agencies caused during the snow storm.

Queens has had the most claims settled with 224, and residents have received $567,780.49 in payments thus far – the second highest total behind Brooklyn. The borough has accounted for 36.1 percent of the claims and 30.6 percent of the settlement money.

The highest single claim in Queens was $45,000, paid out to Alethia Cassimy of Rochdale, who suffered multiple body injuries, including a laceration to her lip, after she was struck by a garbage truck/snow plow on December 30, 2010. A similar incident, during which a sanitation truck “backed into” Elmhurst resident Ana Herrera, cost the city $25,000. Herrera suffered a fractured arm, as well as injuries to her neck, back and knee.

According to a spokesperson from the office of City Comptroller John Liu, the totals are not finalized, as many claims have yet to be settled.

“These claims are among the highest for any storm,” said Liu. “There is still a cloud of additional claims hanging over the city, but the silver lining is that agencies have learned from last year’s blizzard and seem better prepared.”