Philadelphia State Representative Movita Johnson-Harrell has been accused of stealing $500k from a charity she founded that was supposed to help the mentally ill.
Among the items Johnson-Harrell used the $500k for are designer clothing, furs, a Porsche, lavish vacations, and her personal mortgage payments.
Johnson-Harrell will plead guilty and resign this month.
Per PhiladelphiaInquirer, “Her theft knew no bounds,” Shapiro said as he announced that his office had charged the first-term lawmaker with theft, perjury, tampering with public records, and related crimes Wednesday morning.
Shapiro said Johnson-Harrell would plead guilty to charges and faces jail time. “There will be a guilty plea that will be worked out, and you will see the details of that soon,” he said.
Johnson-Harrell, 53, disputed many of the charges, but said she would resign this month.
The charges against Johnson-Harrell mean she is poised to become the second state lawmaker from the West Philadelphia district to leave office under a cloud of criminal accusations in one year. Johnson-Harrell won the seat in a March special election to replace Vanessa Lowery Brown, who was convicted of bribery and other charges and resigned last December.
Prosecutors said Johnson-Harrell used Motivations Education & Consultation Associates (MECA) — a nonprofit she established more than a decade ago to assist people struggling with mental illness, addiction, and homelessness — for profligate spending and personal gain.
Over several years, Johnson-Harrell tried to hide her crimes through an elaborate scheme involving multiple properties in Philadelphia, Shapiro said. Among the steps she took were inflating her tax bills, hiding the nonprofit’s money through false record-keeping, not reporting the money she was taking from MECA as income, attempting to transfer real estate, and under-reporting her real salary, prosecutors said. She misrepresented her money and assets in bankruptcy filings, tax returns, and financial disclosure statements, they said.
Many of the purchases investigators tracked were easily traced to MECA funds: Often, Johnson-Harrell spent an amount she had allegedly transferred from the nonprofit to a personal account. She made some purchases directly from MECA accounts, and she repaid herself for fake loans to the organization, according to the criminal complaint.
“MECA’s actual mission was to serve as a cash account for Johnson-Harrell’s own personal use,” Shapiro said.
Among the funds used was $12,500 Johnson-Harrell allegedly transferred from MECA to the Friends of Movita campaign committee during her run for legislature this year. She told the campaign to record the money as a $15,000 personal loan from her, prosecutors said.
Then, toward the end of the campaign, Johnson deposited into the Friends of Movita account a $30,000 check she had saved from a transfer of MECA funds to her own account. She withdrew half in cash and left the rest for the campaign as an unreported loan, according to the complaint.