Philadelphia Lawmaker, Sister Get Probation After Pleading Guilty in Work Scheme

A state lawmaker faced sentencing Thursday after he admitted to making false statements and ethics violations stemming from a probe into his district office.
Former Rep. Jose (J.P.) Miranda and his sister Michelle Wilson were charged with perjury, criminal conspiracy and conflict of interest. In January, Miranda (D-Pa. 197th) pleaded guilty to his role in a faux worker scheme.

On Thursday, a judge sentenced Miranda to five years probation. His sister got two years probation for making false statements as long as she underwent a mental health evaluation.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams earlier said Miranda hired a straw employee to pay his sister, Michelle Wilson, thousands of dollars over several months. The alleged scheme began after Miranda tried to hire Wilson as his chief of staff. Williams said the Democratic state caucus denied the appointment because of their family ties.

To get around the caucus' nepotism rules, the state representative allegedly worked out a deal with Timothy Duckett, who worked as a driver on Miranda's campaign. Duckett agreed to take a job in Miranda's office with the "sole purpose" of giving a portion of his pay to Wilson, Williams said. He was then hired as a legislative aide in December 2012.

"Duckett was told he did not have to work 40 hours a week for Miranda's legislative office," Williams said. "Miranda also told Duckett that he would only be expected to drive Miranda to different locations when called upon to do so."

Duckett was instructed not to sign in at the state representative's North Philadelphia office and in turn spent his days at a city auto body shop, prosecutors said.

In early December, Duckett began paying hundreds of dollars to Wilson, prosecutors said. Each payment, which ranged from $300 to $900, was detailed in a ledger, kept by Duckett and signed by Wilson each time payment was provided, court documents show.

After making the first payments, Duckett allegedly complained to Miranda that he could not afford his own expenses after giving the cash to the sister. Prosecutors say the representative then gave Duckett a $10,000 raise, bringing his pay to $36,000.

In all, Wilson allegedly took $2,600 in cash from Duckett.

Although Wilson was barred from working on Miranda's staff, Williams said she still acted as if she ran the representative's office.

"But his sister...still in many ways exhibited dominion, control over the legislative office and policies of State Representative Jose Miranda," the DA said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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