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City Councilman Convicted of Stealing Thousands in Public Funds
|Ruben Wills is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 10. He faces up to seven years in prison.|
Wills, who was accused of using the money to buy food, clothes, gas and a $750 Louis Vuitton handbag, buried his head in his hands as the jury read its verdict at the end of an 11-day trial in Queens Criminal Court.
The conviction automatically expels Wills from the council.
His bio has already been removed from the council website.
"Ruben Wills' crimes were a shameful violation of the public trust," said Attorney General Schneiderman, whose office prosecuted the case. "Ruben Wills stole taxpayer dollars to buy fancy purses and clothes for himself and his friends. New Yorkers deserved better."
Prosecutors said Wills used public matching funds from his 2009 council campaign to pay $11,500 to fund a shell company created to translate and distribute campaign literature that was never given out.
The money was instead redirected to a nonprofit corporation that Wills controlled and used to make personal purchases including the handbag, which he bought at Macy's. Wills, a former state Senate staffer, also used money to shop at Nordstrom and Home Depot, officials said.
"Ruben Wills betrayed the trust of all New Yorkers when he abused his position in the State Senate to steal thousands of dollars from the hard working taxpayers of New York for his own selfish gain," said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
"Serving in elected office requires honesty and integrity and today's conviction makes clear that Ruben Wills is unfit to be a member of the City Council,"
During the trial, the black councilman and his attorney said questions from the prosecutor about a possible romance between the married Wills and his chief of staff were racially charged and out of bounds.
"It was just to muddy up Ruben to the jurors," Kevin O'Donnell told the Daily News before the verdict. "They wouldn't have done this with a white politician."
The councilman, who was elected in 2010 and indicted four years later, faces up to seven years in prison.