West Philly Democrat, State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, 53, was charged with theft, perjury, tampering with public records and other related crimes on Wednesday.
Johnson-Harrell took office after a special election in March. Johnson-Harrell replaced Vanessa Lowery Brown, who resigned during allegations of a bribery scandal.
ABC reports that Johnson-Harrell was the first female Muslim member of the State House.
State Attorney General Josh Shapiro broke the news Wednesday morning during a press conference. Shapiro reported that the Johnson-Harrell stole over $500,000 from her own non-profit, Motivations Education & Consultation Associates (MECA). Johnson-Harrell started MECA over a decade ago, and its goal was to help poor people struggling with addiction, mental health and homelessness.
Inquirer.com reports that Johnson-Harrell used the money on lavish vacations, real estate, designer clothing, and her bid for legislature.
“There will be a guilty plea that will be worked out, and you will see the details of that soon,” Shapiro said during the press conference. It was reported that Johnson-Harrell agreed to resign from the legislature. She will likely face jail time.
Inqurier.com reports that Johnson-Harrell surrendered to Philly PD on Wednesday morning and disputed the allegations.
In a statement, Johnson-Harrell claimed, “I am saddened and dismayed by the nature of the allegations brought against me today. I vigorously dispute many of these allegations, which generally pertain to before I took office and I intend to accept responsibility for any actions that were inappropriate.”
It was reported that over the course of many years, Johnson-Harrell tried to cover up her crimes through elaborate, long-term schemes that involved providing false financial statements and properties in Philly.
MECA ran homes for clients, which were somewhat funded by social security checks and Medicaid. The homes closed in 2018 after they were deemed uninhabitable. It was reported that after the homes closed, Johnson-Harrell was still taking rent payments. This sparked Pennsylvania’s investigation into Johnson-Harrell.
Shapiro said that “It is not lost on me that Rep. Johnson-Harrell has faced serious struggles in her personal life.”
Johnson-Harrell’s mission has been to reduce gun violence, which claimed the lives of her brother, father and 18-year-old son.
Shapiro added that, “Defrauding a non-profit, defrauding taxpayers, and then systematically lying over many years to cover it up is unjust, it’s unfair and it’s a crime.”
Johnson-Harrell is the 60th arrest of a public official since Shapiro took office in 2017.