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Pennsylvania lawmaker charged with stealing from nonprofit

Published December 05. 2019 11:25AM

HARRISBURG (AP) — Prosecutors charged a state representative from Philadelphia on Wednesday with enriching herself by stealing money from a nonprofit organization she founded to serve the mentally ill and poor who were fighting addiction.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office accused Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell of perjury, tampering with public records, theft and other charges. Shapiro said a plea deal was expected to be worked out.

Court papers said the theft went on for years as Johnson-Harrell converted the charity’s funds into investment properties, vacations and luxury clothing. Shapiro said Johnson-Harrell personally spent more than $500,000 from Motivations Education & Consultation Associates, diverting Medicaid and Social Security disability funds.

The 53-year-old Democrat won a special election in March in a west Philadelphia district.

Johnson-Harrell, the first female Muslim member of the House, came to office with the intensely personal story of having endured the shooting deaths of her father, brother, cousin and 18-year-old son. She campaigned on a platform of ending gun violence, and is active in an anti-gun violence foundation named for her son Charles, who was shot to death in 2011.

She turned herself in to police Wednesday in Philadelphia. Through her lawyers, she released a statement saying she will resign from her $89,000-a-year House seat later in December.

“I am saddened and dismayed by the nature of the allegations brought against me today,” she said. “I vigorously dispute many of these allegations, which generally pertain to before I took office and I intend to accept responsibility for any actions that were inappropriate.”

Her attorney, Jessica Natali, said they were “ïn the early stage of this case” and declined to “address its merits in the media.”

At a Harrisburg news conference, Shapiro said Johnson-Harrell engaged in “significant and systematic corruption” involving the payments intended for the people who came to her charity for help.

“Defrauding a nonprofit or defrauding taxpayers and then systematically over many years lying to cover it up is unjust, it’s unfair and it is a crime,” Shapiro said.

Prosecutors said that the nonprofit will be reorganized and that Johnson-Harrell no longer has any control over its finances.

They said the money went to buy designer clothing, multiple fox coats, payments on a Porsche, tuition for a relative and travel to Mexico and Florida. They said she also spent $8,000 on criminal restitution from a 2014 conviction for not paying unemployment taxes.

Johnson-Harrell previously held a $104,000 job with the victim and witness services unit of the Philadelphia district attorney’s office.

Court papers say the thefts continued even after she worked in the district attorney’s office and started serving in the state House.

On a state statement of financial disclosure form due in May, Johnson-Harrell reported owing the Internal Revenue Service about $50,000.

She told The Associated Press at that time that the debt went back more than a decade, from a business that helped people with special needs. She said an accountant advised her that if she had appealed in time, she would not have owed anything.

Johnson-Harrell quickly made her presence known in the Capitol. After she was sworn in to office, she objected to a colleague’s session-opening prayer that “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow.”

The lawmaker Johnson-Harrell succeeded was also charged while serving. Democrat Vanessa Lowery Brown resigned in December after being sentenced to 23 months of probation for bribery and other offenses.

Comments
Philadelphia. America Started in Philadelphia, and those ignorant voters would vote in a Muslim? We are a nation founded on Judea Christian values. The city of Philadelphia obviously lost it's roots.
Look folks, these Democrats are destroying the country.
Joe,
Nobody cares what you have to say about anyone elses witness to their faith Joe, let's make that very, very clear. Frankly, I'm tired of it.
When our Constitution was ratified, nearly every state constitution included language requiring a religious test for public officeholders.
I talked of the roots of Pennsylvanians and referenced the voters of Philadelphia. Now read this and consider without the typical Joe take on response...
Here goes...
Pennsylvania, 1776

"I do believe in one God, the creator and governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration."

That is our roots Joe, like it or not.
Look it up.
Fortunately our founding fathers had far more integrity than you.

Again, our constitution outlaws religious tests. You can quote whatever you want from before the constitution was ratified, it’s not relevant to the United States. Our founding fathers rejected your desire for religious tests.

And you are not a Christian.

I recall her swearing in. She used a Quran. The invocation of the day was done in the name of Jesus, and oh, how the press had a field day with that. Wow, the woman who gave that invocation was lynched out by the so called news media.
Let's talk States rights Joe. Heck, for a libertarian, you sure flip flop on that issue.
You're not a libertarian!
You're not an American!
You're not even a Male!
Ha Ha Ha
You certainly crack me up!
From the PA Constitution, adopted 1776

No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.

The US Constitution is what provides for state rights but state rights is not necessarily a libertarian ideal.
This I know... the more decisions made by the federal government, the more division we have.
As a libertarian, you should be embracing states rights. If governments must exist, power should be spread among multiple entities (states) rather than concentrated in one all-powerful centralized force.
You are not a libertarian.
So what you are saying is that a libertarian would support a state passing a law requiring government officials to be judeo-Christian because this is under the banner of state’s rights? States are capable of overreach just as much as the federal government. Libertarianism is about respect for the liberty of individuals, not the liberty of local governments.

We believe that it is the federal government role to assure liberty, not to empower states to limit liberty
My being a Christian means nothing to you or anyone else, so why do you go there?
To stay on topic, do you think the founding fathers would agree with training Saudi Nationals to fly fighter jets. Do you think Saudi's are our friends, I mean, you're an open border guy.
The shooter was a Muslim, from a Muslim country. How did the Muslim do in Philadelphia? How about down in Pensacola? Good people? Have you ever heard of a big time mosque imam denounce these actions? Is CAIRE crying out?
And you are not an American.
You are not a Christian.

For every muslim that commits a crime I can find at least 100 Christians who did the same. Religious intolerance is what this nation was set up to combat. Not embrace.
Another testament to show that PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro is doing a great job and will prosecute regardless of Race, Religion, or Party affiliation. The truth and fact remains that there is corruption in both Parties. What is so upsetting is that she allegedly stole from a non-profit.

What is more upsetting to me, is that the President of the United States and his Administration allows Crimes against Humanity by separating Children from their Parents and putting them in Cages.

So much info already in the Southern District of N.Y. Yes, I remember the Veterans Donations.
A.L. doesn't even understand the concept of Religious Discrimination.
Judge shoppers!
You and your fellow liberals aren't in search of truth, you only want power, and for you folks, that end justifies the means.
There are many corrupt people that have infiltrated our political system. Clean house AG Shapiro!
Attorney General Shapiro, please include the Very corrupt Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in your investigations. Our hard-earned tax dollars are squandered!
Attorney General Shapiro, please include the Very corrupt Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in your investigations. Our hard-earned tax dollars are squandered!
My understanding of the high Gas Tax is in order to repair roads and bridges in our State.
And do remember the House and Senate are controlled by the "R's" that approved these bills.

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