BY JORDAN GIBBONS
For the second time in less than a year, Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) found himself in handcuffs after he was arrested Tuesday morning.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced the indictment of the Councilman for allegedly filing false documents with the City Conflicts of Interest Board.
“Submitting false documents to the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board is a serious crime,” Schneiderman said. “My office’s partnership with the Comptroller is designed to combat corruption in the public sector and we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the public trust is not undercut by public servants who are not truthful in their disclosures.”
The indictment charges Wills with five counts of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree. The charges relate to the filing of annual disclosure reports from 2011 to 2013.
Wills allegedly failed to disclose certain financial dealings and if he is convicted, he faces up to four years in prison.
“These alleged actions reveal a disdain for honest disclosure,” DiNapoli said. “My partnership with the Attorney General in Operation Public Integrity will continue to expose corruption and hold wrongdoers accountable.”
Last May, Wills was arrested and charged with third-degree grand larceny, first-degree scheme to defraud, first-degree falsifying business records and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing.
The Attorney General’s office investigation alleges that Wills and a member of his family, Jelani Mills, defrauded approximately $30,000 in State funds from the City Campaign Finance Board and the State Office of Children and Family Services that were illegally redirected to a nonprofit, New York 4 Life, which Wills controlled.
Mills was charged with third-degree grand larceny and first-degree falsifying business records.
Wills was reportedly under investigation for some time, in connection to the arrest of former State Sen. Shirley Huntley, who was charged with fraud connected to a nonprofit in 2012. Wills served as Huntley’s chief of staff for two years.
In 2012, law enforcement authorities conducted a judicially-authorized wiretap of Huntley’s cell phone, which revealed evidence of her participation in three criminal schemes. Under the direction of the federal government, Huntley recorded meetings with nine individuals; six of whom were elected officials.
After her indictment in August 2012 for embezzling more than $87,000 of taxpayer money from a bogus nonprofit, Huntley was stripped of her positions and committee rankings in the State Senate. In 2013, she pled guilty to the charges and was sentenced to one year and one day in prison.
Attorneys representing Wills have made attempts to remove Schneiderman from the case and instead have a special prosecutor assigned because they claim the Attorney General’s office released misinformation to tarnish Wills’ name and reputation. The claim stems from a belief from Wills’ camp that Schneiderman released information that Wills wore a wire, which Wills denied.
Wills and Schneiderman also had words over a campaign video Schneiderman released during his 2014 re-election campaign. The video, which purported to show corrupt elected officials Schneiderman had put behind bars, included Wills, who was still awaiting trial.
After his first arrest, the Council took away Wills’ committee chairmanship and his ability to allocate discretionary funds in the budget. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan) and Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) ensure the community in District 28 get funding.
“The City Council takes these allegations from the Attorney General and Comptroller very seriously and we will be reviewing them,” Mark-Viverito said.
Wills pleaded not guilty to the recent charges in front of Justice Laura Ward and he was released without bail.
As of press time, Wills’ attorney, Randall Unger did not return a request for comment.
Reach Reporter Jordan Gibbons at (718)357-7400, Ext. 123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @jgibbons2.