BY TRIB STAFF
Another prominent Queens official is facing criminal charges.
Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) was arrested early Wednesday following a detailed investigation from State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
According to the indictment released Wednesday afternoon, Wills has been 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. If convicted of the grand larceny charge, Wills could face up to seven years in prison.
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 non-profit, New York 4 Life, which Wills controlled.
Mills was charged with third-degree grand larceny and first-degree falsifying business records.
“New Yorkers are repeatedly asked to have faith in our leaders, and it appears that faith has been shattered once again,” Schneiderman said. “Every time my office arrests a corrupt public official, it sends the message that elected office does not come with a blank check or a license to break the law.”
Wills has reportedly been under investigation for some time, in connection to the arrest of former State Sen. Shirley Huntley, who was charged with fraud connected to a non-profit in 2012. Wills served as Huntley’s chief of staff for two years.
After facing a judge Wednesday morning, Wills spoke to reporters outside of the Queens County Criminal Courthouse. Standing with attorney Christopher Renfroe, Wills defiantly stressed his innocence and said he would hold a press conference in the next two weeks to address the charges.
“I’m telling you and my district that I’m innocent. I have full support from my district and the City Council. I am not resigning on charges,” Wills said. “This is America, people. We are presumed innocent until you are proven guilty.”
During the press conference, Wills indicated that he was being targeted because of the color of his skin.
“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 we’re going with,” he said.
Wills declined to elaborate on the comment.
Wills was stripped of his member items and his chairmanship, according to sources within the City Council. The office of City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has been designating funds to be allocated to the district.
Wednesday morning, Mark-Viverito sent a statement about Wills’ arrest.
“The City Council takes these troubling allegations from the New York State Attorney General very seriously and will be reviewing them thoroughly,” the statement read. “New Yorkers expect and deserve a government that is ethical and responsible and that is the standard we’re seeking to uphold.”