Embattled former state Sen. Shirley Huntley of Jamaica pleaded guilty Wednesday in Brooklyn Federal Court to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, admitting that she embezzled $87,700 from a bogus nonprofit.
Huntley, 74, has agreed to pay back the money she stole to the state Department of Education, as part of her plea deal with the government, and to lay out $1,000 in restitution in an unrelated bribery scheme involving a cargo business at JFK Airport, according to the FBI.
When sentenced, Huntley faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
“Huntley’s experience and influence were supposed to be used for the benefit of her constituents. Instead, Huntley used her knowledge of the system to steal funds intended to help some of her neediest constituents, lining her own pockets at the expense of parents in need and, ultimately, their children,” U.S. Attorney for New York’s South District Loretta Lynch said in a prepared statement. “She will now be held to account for her crime.
Huntley was accused of funneling public money to a nonprofit called the Parents Information Network that she founded with her niece and an aide, and then helping to falsify documents to cover the tracks of the do-nothing organization.
From October 2005 through October 2008, PIN received public funds to help educate parents about the city public school system. Instead, Huntley used the money for her own personal benefit writing over $21,000 in checks from the group’s bank account to herself and a family member, using $500 of PIN funds to pay her personal credit card bill, embezzled more than $34,000 from PIN through ATM withdrawals, and writing checks for $24,500 to the straw recipients, who cashed them and gave nearly all the money back to Huntley, the FBI said.
The disgraced former politician also faces state charges related to PIN. She could not be reached by phone this week.