West Philadelphia State Lawmaker to Plead Guilty to Stealing $500,000 From Nonprofit

State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell is also expected to resign from office after pleading guilty, according to the Pennsylvania Attorney General

A West Philadelphia woman recently elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly will plead guilty to criminal charges, including theft and tampering with public records, the state Attorney General said Wednesday.

State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell turned herself into the state Attorney General's office Wednesday morning. 

Johnson-Harrell will plead guilty to charges including perjury, tampering with public records, theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception and contributions of corporations, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said.

Johnson-Harrell also will resign from the state House. Her last day is expected to be Dec. 13.

He accused Johnson-Harrell of using a nonprofit she founded in 2006 as a "cash account" for years. The nonprofit, called Motivation Education and Consultation Associates, became the focus of the investigation into the lawmaker last year, Shapiro said.

"Johnson-Harrell used MECA finances for years to buy expensive trips, clothing, to pay overdue utilities and to fund past-due car payments," Shapiro said, noting that Johnson-Harrell allegedly stole more than $500,000 in the last decade. "Her theft knew no bounds."

Johnson-Harrell won the special election in the 190th Legislative District, which covers parts of West Philadelphia and North Philadelphia, earlier this year. While reacting to the victory, she stated she was the first Muslim woman elected to the Pennsylvania legislature.

Her brief tenure in the state Capitol got off to an uneasy start from day one, when her swearing-in ceremony in March was marked by a Christian evangelical opening prayer.

A state representative from central Pennsylvania delivered the prayer that another state lawmaker from Philadelphia, Rep. Jordan Harris, described as "weaponizing" religion.

Johnson-Harrell said she had a large group of friends and family in attendance for her swearing-in, and accused the prayer-giving lawmaker, Stephanie Borowicz, of purposely delivering a bombastic Christian prayer. She said 30 of those 52 guests were also Muslim.

"It blatantly represented the Islamophobia that exists among some leaders — leaders that are supposed to represent the people,” Johnson-Harrell told the Pennsylvania Capital-Star news site.

Borowicz said she wouldn't apologize and did nothing wrong, but other lawmakers introduced a resolution calling on a review of the way the legislature opens its sessions.

Check back for more details as they become known.

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