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Shirley Huntley Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy Charges

QUEENS — Former State Sen. Shirley Huntley pleaded guilty in a Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday to charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

The 74-year-old Huntley, who represented southeast Queens from 2007 until losing her seat in 2012, was accused of embezzling close to $90,000 from a Queens nonprofit that she ran.

That nonprofit, Parents Information Network Inc., received public funds to help educate parents about city public schools, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

From October 2005 through October 2008, U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch said Huntley embezzled about $87,700 from the nonprofit, telling the state that the money had instead been used to educate parents.

“Huntley’s experience and influence were supposed to be used for the benefit of her constituents," Lynch said in a prepared statement. "Instead, Huntley used her knowledge of the system to steal funds intended to help some of her neediest constituents, lining her own pockets at the expense of parents in need and, ultimately, their children."

According to Lynch's office, Huntley wrote more than $21,000 in checks from the nonprofit's business account directly to herself and a family member. She allegedly used $500 to pay off credit card debt, and stole an additional $34,000 through ATM withdrawals, Lynch's office said.

Huntley also allegedly wrote checks for $24,500 to straw recipients, who Lynch's office said cashed the checks and gave the money right back to the former State Senator.

Huntley's plea deal consists of repaying more than $87,000 to the state Department of Education, and repay $1,000 in connection with "an unrelated bribery scheme involving a cargo-handling business at John F. Kennedy International Airport," Lynch's office said.

Huntley also faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, Lynch's office said.

In August, Huntley pleaded not guilty to a separate conspiracy charge, which accused her of covering up the embezzlement of about $30,000 in taxpayer funds earmarked for another nonprofit she founded in Nassau County.