PA State Representative facing charges for allegedly stealing money from charity
HARRISBURG, PA. (WENY) – A Pennsylvania State Representative is facing a slew of charges, including theft, perjury and tampering following allegations that she took more than $500,000 from her charity.
According to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell (D – Philadelphia) personally spent more than $500,000 from Motivations Education & Consultation Associates (MECA) on “vacations, designer clothing, luxury car payments, real estate purchases, past-due mortgage payments and other personal expenses”.
MECA is reportedly a non-profit organization dedicated to “helping those who suffered with chronic mental illness, intellectual disabilities, substance abuse disorders, the homeless, seniors and children”.
“When corruption erodes the trust that is built between governmental entities and citizens, no one wins,” AG Shapiro said. “I’ve said time and time again as Attorney General that no one is above the law, no matter their position of power. And today is no different.”
“Representative Johnson-Harrell continuously diverted Medicaid and social security disability funds from her charity to help Philadelphia’s most vulnerable communities for her own personal use. She spent almost $15,000 on clothing, including online shopping sprees at Ralph Lauren and fox fur coats. She traveled to Mexico, Orlando, Georgia and Maryland on lavish trips costing $16,000 of MECA funds. She spent $2,000 on overdue car payments on her Porsche. Another $4,000 on tuition for a relative. And, she spent almost $20,000 on overdue mortgage payments.”
Shapiro says additional personal purchases with MECA's cash include:
- $5,500 on multiple fox fur coats,
- $16,000 on vacations to Mexico (twice), Atlanta, and Ocean City, MD,
- $2,065.95 to cover past-due Porsche payments,
- $6,976 for designer clothing,
- $3,000 for an overdue IRS tax bill,
- $3,830 in tuition for relatives,
- $3,200 to Philadelphia Gas Works,
- $4,741.20 for City of Philadelphia taxes, and
- $7,979.54 to cover a restitution payment for a 2014 criminal conviction where Johnson-Harrell failed to pay unemployment compensation tax.
As Johnson-Harrell allegedly spent this money, AG Shapiro says the residential homes for people with serious medical issues that MECA was supposed to help were forced to close due to “uninhabitable conditions”.
Additionally, in November 2018, Johnson-Harrell filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection; however, she allegedly failed to report the cash she got from MECA, inflated her expenses by “tens of thousands of dollars” and never disclosed her connection to the non-profit.
Shapiro says she also committed campaign fraud by “failing to accurately report her campaign's receipts and expenditures”, including reports filed after she was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Shapiro said Johnson-Harrell turned herself in Wednesday morning and plans to plead guilty. Additionally, she has reportedly agreed to resign from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, effective December 13.