Lawmaker accused of theft from charity announces resignation
In this Dec. 19, 2018 photo, Movita Johnson-Harrell, a supervisor for the Victim Witness Services unit, speaks with members of the media during a news conference in Philadelphia. Johnson-Harrell, a state House representative from Philadelphia, won a special election in March 2019 and is facing charges after prosecutors accused her of enriching herself by stealing money from a non-profit organization she founded to serve the mentally ill and poor who were fighting addiction. The charges were filed Wednesday by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
FILE - In this Dec. 14, 2018 file photo, Movita Johnson-Harrell, left, and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, second left, take part in a vigil for gun violence victims in Philadelphia. Johnson-Harrell, a state House representative from Philadelphia, won a special election in March 2019 and is facing charges after prosecutors accused her of enriching herself by stealing money from a non-profit organization she founded to serve the mentally ill and poor who were fighting addiction. The charges were filed Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
HARRISBURG — A Pennsylvania lawmaker accused of bilking a charity she founded out of more than $500,000 announced Thursday she was resigning.
Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, D-Philadelphia, told House Speaker Mike Turzai in a letter that her resignation will take effect on Dec. 13, adding that she disputes many of the allegations against her.
She said she is resigning in part to focus on her criminal defense, adding that she takes responsibility for “some missteps” she made before she was elected.
“I am choosing to resign to protect my district, to allow for an orderly election for my successor and to focus on my defense to these allegations,” she wrote in the hand-delivered letter that was dated Wednesday.
Turzai, R-Allegheny, and Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, said they appreciated her resignation.
“We are deeply concerned anytime someone entrusted with positions of public leadership are accused of crimes that impugn the integrity of elected office,” the leaders wrote in a statement. “Any act of corruption by a member of our body damages the bond between the public and the Legislature for every member.”
Johnson-Harrell is alleged to have taken money from the charity, Motivations Education & Consultation Associates, diverting Medicaid and Social Security disability funds for her own use. The charity is designed to help people with mental illness, intellectual disabilities, substance abuse problems and other challenges.
Prosecutors claim she spent the charity’s money on designer clothing, multiple fox coats, payments on a Porsche, tuition for a relative and travel to Mexico and Florida.
She is charged with theft, perjury, records tampering and other offenses. She was arraigned Wednesday and released on $50,000 unsecured bail, with a preliminary hearing set for Dec. 18.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, said Wednesday Johnson-Harrell engaged in systematic corruption and lied for years to cover it up.