City Councilman Ruben Wills Arrested in Corruption Probe

City Council member Ruben Wills was charged in connection with an ongoing New York City political corruption probe, according to an indictment unsealed in Queens Criminal Court on Wednesday.

Wills, a Democrat who was elected to in 2010 to represent southeastern Queens, was charged with a dozen crimes, including scheming to defraud, grand larceny and falsifying business records, according to the indictment.

He did not enter a plea and was released without bail.

"I'm telling you and my district that I'm innocent," he told reporters outside court. "This is America, people. You are presumed innocent until you are proved guilty."

He added that he is not resigning from the council.

Wills was charged with falsifying several documents, including a $11,500 check, and used an unpaid invoice to fake other donations, according to the complaint. Wills has been under investigation by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office in connection with tens of thousands of dollars in public funds that went missing.

Schneiderman's office had been eyeing a missing state grant that went to a nonprofit linked to the councilman. 

Wills' arrest is connected to the ongoing probe into State Senate Shirley Huntley, a longtime powerbroker in the Democratic party in Queens. Wills, who was arrested at his home early Wednesday, served two years as her chief of staff.

Huntley is a central figure in a wide-ranging corruption investigation and was under investigation for misusing public funds when she decided to cooperate with federal investigators. She invited several Senate Democrats and Democratic councilmembers to visit her at her home in Queens. Unbeknownst to her guests, she recorded the conversations.

Two of her guests were former Senate Democratic leaders, Malcolm Smith of Queens and John Sampson of Brooklyn, who were both later indicted.

Wills, also a guest of Huntley, had his conversation recorded as well. At the time, his lawyer said he was not the subject of investigation.

Wills was elected to his seat by a mere 626 votes and was the chairman of the subcommittee on drug abuse. He has agreed to give up the chairmanship, according to a spokesman with the New York City Council office.

He will also lose his privileges to earmark money for pet projects in his district; instead, it will be doled out by the Queens delegation chairman and the City Council speaker's office.

"The City Council takes these troubling allegations from the New York State Attorney General very seriously and will be reviewing them thoroughly," said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito 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."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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