New York City Councilman Ruben Wills was charged with a dozen crimes on Wednesday, including grand larceny and fraud, after he stole more than $30,000 in taxpayer money and used some of it to go on shopping sprees, authorities said.
The Democrat was charged with scheming to defraud, grand larceny and falsifying business records, the indictment said. He pleaded not guilty to all 12 counts and was released without bail, the New York Post reported.
Mr. Wills has also made it clear that he is not resigning from the council.
“I’m telling you and my district that I’m innocent,” Mr. Wills, 42, told reporters outside court. “This is America, people. You are presumed innocent until you are proved guilty.”
“I know because of where I come from and the color I am, it doesn’t usually work like that with you guys, but I am presumed innocent and that’s what I’m going with,” he said, as reported by the New York Observer.
Mr. Wills is accused of falsifying records and pocketing money meant for causes such as childhood weight loss in order to fund his lavish lifestyle.
“[He’s] taking money that’s supposed to help kids who are suffering from obesity and all of the medical problems that arise out of that and using it to buy things at Macy’s and Nordstrom’s,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, The Post reported.
“This is about as low as you can get,” he said.
Mr. Wills allegedly siphoned about $19,000 in pork-barrel funds arranged by his former boss, state Sen. Shirley Huntley, who is now imprisoned for corruption, The Post said.
The councilman was charged with stealing more than $3,000 from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, some of which he used to buy a $750 Louis Vuitton bag, authorities said.
Mr. Schneiderman also charged that Mr. Wills executed a “very calculating scheme” in pocketing $11,500 through a nonprofit he founded, NY 4 Life, The Post reported.
The charity reportedly helps single mothers but was actually used to “defraud New York taxpayers while lining the councilman’s own pockets,” Mr. Schneiderman said.