“I have not lied to my community and I maintain my innocence,” posted former Council Member Ruben Wills on Facebook after he was tried and convicted for stealing more than $30,000 in taxpayer’s money. The jury found Wills guilty of one count of a scheme to defraud, two counts of grand larceny and two counts of filing a false instrument. Wills was acquitted on the single charge of filing false business records.
Wills is the forth Southeast Queens elected officials to be convicted of corruption charges in the last four years (Shirley Huntley, Malcolm Smith, William Scarborough). He is due to be sentenced and faces jail time.
In his post-conviction postings, Wills cited his case as payback for not cooperating with the Attorney General’s office in its pursuit of corruption.
“This witch hunt is my payback for not wearing a wire as the Attorney General’s office had repeatedly requested that I do going back several years. I refused to wear a wire to ensnare innocent people,” he posted.
On May 28, 2014, the then Council Member Wills held a press conference to dispute charges that he wore a wire for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. At the time, Wills claimed he was asked to wear a wire in order to make a pending indictment “go away”.
“I want to be crystal clear I have NEVER worn a wire,” said Wills.
Wills was indicted by Attorney General Schneiderman and State Comptroller Thomas DiNapaoli in a corruption scheme that involved a non-profit and campaign funds. At that 2014 press conference, Wills brought what he called “evidence” of works by a non-profit aimed at single parents. That evidence contained easels filled with photos, menus, trips and news coverage (Communities of Color News did not cover any event by this non-profit) from 2006-9. “Years and years of what they call a sham non-for-profit…where we reached residents of Southeast Queens…If we have proof of events, how did I steal money,” Wills said at the time.
His counsel at the time, Steve Zissou, said that a full accounting of the funds “almost to the penny” had been provided. “We offered to repay it completely if there was any misunderstanding.”
The press conference also claimed Wills was being targeted because the Attorney General was looking to cultivate the African American vote from Southeast Queens. AG Schneirman (Democrat) won his re-election with 56% of the vote.
“Ruben Wills’ crimes were a shameful violation of the public trust,” said Attorney General Schneiderman, whose office prosecuted the case. “Ruben Wills stole taxpayers’ dollars to buy fancy purses and clothes for himself and his friends. New Yorkers deserved better.”
Upon his conviction, Wills was immediately expelled from the city council.
“Ruben Wills betrayed the trust of all New Yorkers when he abused his position to steal thousands of dollars from the hardworking taxpayers of New York for his own selfish gain,” was the statement by Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito regarding the guilty verdict.