NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Democratic member of the New York City Council was arrested on corruption charges on Wednesday, accused of illegally pocketing roughly $30,000 in public funds for his own use, prosecutors said.
Ruben Wills routed money that came from city and state sources to a non-profit he founded, called New York 4 Life, and to his campaign committee, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. New York 4 Life is described on Wills’ website as an advocacy group for single mothers.
Some of the money was spent shopping at department stores Nordstrom, Century 21 and Macy‘s, where Wills bought a $750 Louis Vuitton handbag, among other items, the statement said.
Wills, who was elected to the council in 2010 from a district in the city’s Queens borough, was indicted on grand larceny, falsifying business records, scheming to defraud and filing a false check, Schneiderman said.
“New Yorkers are repeatedly asked to have faith in our leaders, and it appears that faith has been shattered once again,” Schneiderman said.
The top charge of grand larceny carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years.
Wills told reporters after an appearance in Queens Criminal Court that he was innocent.
“I have the full support of my district and full support of city council,” he said.
Wills previously served as chief of staff for former state Senator Shirley Huntley, who pleaded guilty to embezzling $87,700 from a non-profit in 2013 and who covertly recorded several lawmakers as part of a corruption probe. Wills was one of the politicians she recorded, according to court documents.
Wills’ arrest marks the latest corruption case involving New York politicians. In April, two state legislators were arrested on corruption charges, and five other lawmakers were charged with accepting bribes.
Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Grant McCool