Former Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell pled guilty to stealing from charity

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Former Pennsylvania Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell pled guilty to charges of theft, amongst others on Wednesday. She is facing at least three months in jail from allegedly stealing more than $500,000 from her own non-profit.

The non-profit is called Motivations Education & Consultation Associates (MECA), which helps people struggling with addiction, mental illness, and homelessness. 

Inquirer.com reports that Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Scott DiClaudio sentenced Johnson-Harrell to 11.5 to 23 months in county jail on Thursday morning. Johnson-Harrell will also have two years’ probation. 

ABC reports that Johnson-Harrell will also be on house arrest for 8.5 months and is required to pay back the non-profit. She is being required to turn over a Tioga Street property, so that the profits will be used to help pay the restitution.

Johnson-Harrell did not admit in court a specific amount of money she stole, but the 53-year-old allegedly used the money on lavish vacations, personal bills, furs, and designer clothing. 

She is facing two tampering offenses, three theft charges, and a perjury charge. Each of the theft charges ranges from $2,000 to $25,000. 

Johnson-Harrell also charged no contest to two misdemeanor charges relating to ethics and campaign code violations. 

The DA’s office reports that Johnson-Harrell misused the funds to pay for some of the below items, according to Inquirer:

-About $15,000 for clothing, including $5,500 for four fur coats.

-$19,000 in vacation expenses for 2017 and 2018 trips to Atlanta, Ocean City, MD, Orlando, and Mexico (twice).

-$20,000 for overdue mortgage bills.

-About $20,000 in overdue water, gas, and tax bills.

-$7,979 to satisfy her restitution following a 2013 summary conviction for making a false statement involving employer-withheld taxes at a West Philadelphia personal-care home she operated.

-$4,000 to a criminal defense attorney for a relative’s case.

-$3,830 for her grandchildren’s private-school tuition.

-$2,500 in contributions to Krasner during his 2017 campaign.

-$2,065 for overdue payments on her Porsche.

It was reported in addition to these that Johnson-Harrell gave herself monthly “rent” checks of $3,345 a month, which she used to pay for a personal-care home she operated for MECA, which was abruptly closed in May 2018. State regulators discovered no staff on duty and unsanitary conditions. 

Inquirer.com reports that Johnson-Harrell also paid herself $50,000 in “rent” money in 2017 for a property she used as a MECA group home after she stopped operating it in February of 2017. 

She also used MECA money by writing $12,000 in checks in 2015 to her state-house campaign. In 2019, when she ran again, she used $12,500 from MECA for her campaign. On Mar. 11, she deposited $30,000 but withdrew half of it right away. 

“This Philadelphia community would have been in a better place had this former public official invested MECA’s money into the people who needed the care she promised,” Attorney General Shapiro said in a statement. 

Defense attorney Jessica Natali emailed a statement to outlets, which read, “Today, Movita Johnson-Harrell took responsibility for some poor decisions she made over the past few years. … While these were serious errors, they do not diminish, or erase, her long record of community leadership and service and passion for ending the scourge of gun violence.”

The email continued, “Movita is an exceptional woman who will serve her sentence, and then return to her mission of advocacy. She remains grateful for the strong support of her community as she accepted accountability for her actions.”

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