West Philadelphia lawmaker charged with stealing $500K from nonprofit

Prosecutors on Wednesday charged a state House representative from Philadelphia and accused her of enriching herself by stealing money from a non-profit organization she founded to serve the mentally ill and impoverished who were fighting addiction.

The charges filed by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro's office against state Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell include include perjury, tampering with public records and theft.

Movita Johnson-Harrell, 53, won a special election in March for a West Philadelphia district.

Court papers say the theft went on for years, as she converted the charity's funds into investment properties, vacations and luxury clothing. Shapiro said Johnson-Harrell personally spent more than $500,000 from Motivations Education & Consultation Associates, diverting Medicaid and Social Security disability funds.

The 53-year-old Democrat won a special election in March for a West Philadelphia district.

Johnson-Harrell is the first female Muslim member of the state House. She was to turn herself in to police in Philadelphia on Wednesday. It was not clear whether she had a lawyer.

She had previously worked in the victim and witness services unit of the Philadelphia district attorney's office, and is active in an anti-gun violence foundation named for her 18-year-old son, who was shot to death in 2011. 

Court papers say the thefts continued even after she worked in the district attorney's office and started serving in the state House.

On a state ethics form due in May, Johnson-Harrell reported she owed the Internal Revenue Service about $50,000. 


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