Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced the sentencing of former New York City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Queens) to 2 to 6 years in prison; Will was also ordered to pay nearly $33,000 in restitution and a $5,000 fine.'
The sentencing followed an eleven-day trial in July that resulted in a guilty verdict on five counts related to Will’s theft of approximately $30,000 in public campaign funds and state grant money. The jury found Wills guilty of one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, two counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree , and two counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. Wills was previously expelled from the New York City Council; he was immediately taken into custody today.
“New Yorkers deserve public servants whose priority is the needs of their constituents, not lining their own pockets. Instead of spending taxpayer money on projects to help his community, Ruben Wills betrayed the public trust by stealing tens of thousands for himself – and he’ll now pay the price,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “We will continue to ensure that public servants who act as though they’re above the law are brought to justice.”
"Ruben Wills stole money meant to benefit the community he was sworn to serve. Thanks to my investigators and auditors working with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Mr. Wills has been brought to justice," said State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. “We must have a zero tolerance for public corruption and we will continue to partner with law enforcement to root out fraud and protect the taxpayers."
In addition to serving 2 to 6 years in prison, Wills will pay $11,500 in restitution to the New York City Campaign Finance Board and $21,374 to the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS). He will also pay a $5,000 fine.
The jury found that, Wills used public matching funds from his 2009 campaign for City Council to pay $11,500 to Micro Targeting, a shell company purportedly created to translate and distribute campaign literature. Prosecutors proved that the money paid to Micro Targeting was instead redirected to NY 4 Life, a non-profit corporation that Wills controlled. Wills withdrew the money and made a series of personal purchases, including at Macy’s, where he used a portion of the funds to purchase a $750 Louis Vuitton handbag.
Prosecutors also detailed how Wills used $21,000 in State grant funds for personal and political expenses.
The $21,000 was part of a $33,000 grant provided to NY 4 Life from the OCFS, earmarked by former State Senator Shirley Huntley while Wills was serving as Huntley’s chief of staff. The grant stipulated that the money had to be used to conduct four public service projects. Yet witnesses at trial testified that NY 4 Life only held one event during the contract period, while Wills used approximately $21,000 of the funds for personal and political expenses, including at Nordstrom and Home Depot. Wills also used a portion of the money to pay individuals who had carried out campaign work for his City Council race.
Judge Ira Margulis presided over the trial and sentencing.
Since 2011, Attorney General Schneiderman, through his “Operation Integrity” partnership with Comptroller DiNapoli, has brought charges against dozens of individuals implicated in public corruption schemes around the state – resulting in the return of over $11 million in restitution to taxpayers through these convictions.