Following an 11-day trial, the jury found Wills – whose district encompasses parts of Jamaica, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park and Springfield Gardens – guilty on five of six counts related to Will’s theft of approximately $30,000 in public campaign funds and state grant money, according to State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Those charges were: one count of a scheme to defraud in the 1st degree, two counts of grand larceny in the 3rd degree and two counts of filing a false instrument in the 1st degree.
“Ruben Wills’ crimes were a shameful violation of the public trust,” said Schneiderman in a statement. “Now, after a conviction by a jury of his peers, Ruben Wills will face the consequences.”
“Ruben Wills stole taxpayer dollars to buy fancy purses and clothes for himself and his friends,” he added. “New Yorkers deserved better. Today’s conviction is another important step in our efforts to clean up New York politics and give voters the representation they deserve.”
State prosecutors argued that Wills used public matching funds from his 2009 campaign to pay $11,500 to Micro Targeting, a shell company purportedly created to translate and distribute campaign literature.
They argued that money was not used for the campaign and instead directed to a non-profit called NY 4 Life, which Wills controlled.
Wills then allegedly withdrew the money and made a series of purchases, including a $750 Louis Vuitton handbag.
Prosecutors also detailed how Wills allegedly used $21,000 in state grant funds for personal and political expenses.
Wills was acquitted on a single charge of filing false business records.
In a statement on his Facebook page, the councilman maintained his innocence and called the trial and conviction a “witch hunt.”
“I have not lied to my community and I maintain my innocence,” he said. “I will not apologize for stealing anything because I did not. The nonprofits that I started and funded for many years out of my own pocket have always been to enrich the community and not myself.”
Sentencing is scheduled for August 10. Wills faces up to seven years in prison and will be automatically expelled from the City Council at sentencing.
State Senator James Sanders Jr., who represents a large portion of the same constituency at the state level, called the conviction a sad day for the community.
“People's faith in their elected officials has been shaken again,” Sanders said. “Never has there been a greater need for good, clean leadership. The election to fill this seat has become all the more important in light of this conviction. I hope the community will be able to put their trust in someone who can lead them forward with strength and dignity.”