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Councilman Rubin Wills arrested for corruption

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Lisa Colagrossi reports on the arrest of Councilman Ruben Wills on charges of corruption stemming from an alleged misuse of tens of thousands of dollars. (WABC)

New York City Councilman Ruben Wills was arrested Wednesday morning by as part of an ongoing corruption investigation by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Wills and a family member, identified as Jelani Mills, were taken into custody and arraigned on corruption charges in Queens Criminal Court. He was charged with a dozen crimes, including scheming to defraud, grand larceny and falsifying business records. 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."

Wills formerly served as chief of staff for ex-state Senator Shirley Huntley, a Queens Democrat previously convicted of running a taxpayer-funded charity fraud.

Authorities say Wills, also a Queens Democrat, was one of seven city officials Huntley secretly recorded as part of her federal investigation in the summer of 2012.

Schneiderman has been investigating politicians and others linked to Huntley ever since.

Wills had been under investigation for steering taxpayer funds into a nonprofit.

He pleaded guilty in 2011 to a 15-year-old misdemeanor criminal mischief charge in Manhattan. He was accused of damaging walls and stealing track lights from a building owned by a client he claimed had owed him money.

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.

He 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."

The nonprofit linked to the probe, New York 4 Life, is described on the councilman's website is "a nonprofit organization which has helped single mothers champion critical issues such as civic literacy and financial empowerment." Wills repeatedly falsified donations to the group, according to the complaint.


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politicsnew york city politicscouncilman Ruben WillsarrestcorruptionKew Gardens
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