Do-nothing Queens Councilman Ruben Wills stole more than $30,000 in taxpayer money – and used some of the cash for department-store shopping sprees that included the purchase of a Louis Vuitton handbag, authorities charged Wednesday.
Wills, 42, was arrested on charges including fraud, theft and falsifying records as part of a scheme to fund a lavish lifestyle by pocketing money meant for causes such as childhood weight loss.
“[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.
“This is about as low as you can get.”
Wills, who has missed more than a fourth of all City Council meetings since taking office after a special election in 2010, allegedly siphoned about $19,000 in pork-barrel funds arranged by his former boss, state Sen. Shirley Huntley, for whom he served as chief-of-staff.
Wills also scammed $11,500 in matching funds from the city Campaign Finance Board by submitting a phony invoice tied to his failed 2009 race for the council, authorities said.
Schneiderman said the Democrat pulled off the “very calculating scheme” through a nonprofit he founded, NY 4 Life.
The charity supposedly helps single mothers and needy kids but was actually used to “defraud New York taxpayers while lining the councilman’s own pockets,” Schneiderman said.
Although Huntley, now imprisoned herself for corruption, obtained funding for Wills for four separate programs, Wills only followed through on a luncheon that cost $14,000.
While he lived high on the hog, he failed to execute an “obesity initiative” for which he received funding, Schneiderman said.
Wills refused to cooperate with the probe by Schneiderman and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, invoking the Fifth Amendment.
At Wills’ arraignment in Queens Supreme Court, he pleaded not guilty to a dozen counts. The top charge carries up to seven years in prison. He was released without bail and defiantly proclaimed his innocence.
“I am not resigning on charges. This is America, people. We are presumed innocent before we are proven guilty,” Wills said.
“But because I know what I am, where I come from and the color I am, it doesn’t really work like that with you guys.”
Wills also boasted that, “I have full support from my district, and I have full support across the City Council.” But council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito immediately booted him from the chairmanship of the Subcommittee on Drug Abuse.
In 2011, Wills pleaded guilty to criminal mischief for stealing a fan and lights from a former contracting client 15 years earlier.