(UPDATE) Queens Councilman Ruben Wills arrested by Attorney General’s office in corruption probe

ruben wills arrest photo
Queens Councilman Ruben Wills was arrested Wednesday morning.
Credit: Attorney General’s Office

Queens Councilman Ruben Wills maintained his innocence on Wednesday after being indicted on multiple corruption charges, including the theft of campaign finance funds and grant money awarded to a nonprofit he led.

“I’m telling you and my district that I’m innocent,” he told reporters, adding that people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. “This is America, people.”

Wills, 42, was arraigned on 12 charges of corruption brought by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office. He did not enter a plea and was released without bail.

He is accused of stealing roughly $30,500 in city and state funds and using some of the money for shopping trips to Nordstrom, Century 21 and Macy’s, where he bought a $750 Louis Vuitton handbag.

“This undermines public confidence in our system,” Schneiderman said of the charges and corruption in politics. “This discourages people from voting.”

In the 2009 campaign for the office he currently holds, Wills allegedly funneled $11,500 in campaign matching funds from the city into a shell company, Micro Targeting, which was controlled by a relative.

The relative, Jelani Mills, was named in four counts of the indictment, including grand larceny and falsifying business records.

That money was redirected to the bank account of a nonprofit controlled by Wills, NY 4 Life, according to Schneiderman’s office. Using a NY 4 Life debit card, Wills allegedly made personal purchases, including the luxury bag.

In the second part of the alleged scheme, Wills is accused of stealing a portion of $33,000 in funds allocated to NY 4 Life from the state Office of Children and Family Services.

The funds were earmarked by State Sen. Shirley Huntley, currently serving a year in prison for an embezzlement scheme. Wills was Huntley’s chief of staff for two years.

NY 4 Life promised to conduct four programs from December 2009 and November 2010. About $14,000 of that money was legally used for a luncheon to honor “single mothers.” The rest, Schneiderman’s office said, was used to make personal purchases and shopping at Nordstrom and Century 21.

“The City Council takes these troubling allegations from the New York State Attorney General very seriously and will be reviewing them thoroughly,” Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said 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.”

Wills no longer has control over the distribution of discretionary funding from the city, known as member items, to his district. The speaker’s office and Queens delegation head will now have that responsibility. He has agreed to step down as chairmanship of the subcommittee on drug abuse.

The councilman, who represents parts of southeastern Queens, said he has no plans to resign.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter @AnnaESanders


MAP: New York City Street Closures August 22,…

The Percy Sutton Harlem 5K and NYC Family Health Walk-a-thon and Pakistan Day Parade and Fair will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend. Plan…


U.N. nuclear inquiry on Iran seen making slow…

The U.N. nuclear watchdog appears to have made only limited progress so far in getting Iran to answer questions about its suspected atomic bomb research, diplomatic sources said on Friday,…


Violence-weary Missouri town sees second night of calm

By Nick Carey and Carey GillamFERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) - The violence-weary town of Ferguson, Missouri, saw a second straight evening of relative calm on Thursday…


Journalist James Foley's parents, after call with pope,…

The parents of James Foley, the American journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Iraq, on Friday called for prayer and support to free the remaining captives held by Islamic…


Recap: 'The Knick,' Season 1, Episode 3, 'The…

The third episode of Steven Soderbergh's "The Knick" finds Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) meeting an old flame and other characters embracing self-destruction.


Webcast: Watch Polyphonic Spree live on Sunday Aug.…

Polyphonic Spree singer Tim DeLaughter sits with Metro Music Editor Pat Healy for a chat and then the big band performs live. It begins on Sunday at 9:30 pm


Matthew Weiner on directing 'Are You Here' and…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner discusses his movie "Are You Here," his history writing comedy and the tiny movie he directed in 1996 you can't see.


Michael Chiklis on his football past and 'When…

Michael Chiklis remembers playing football in high school and how that prepped him to play a coach in "When the Game Stands Tall."


Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.


Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.


Jets vs. Giants: 3 Jets storylines to watch

Metro looks at three Jets storylines to watch as they play the Giants Friday.


Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.


Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…


Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…


Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…


Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…