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January 28, 2014 | By | Posted in WatchBlog

Philly lawmaker slapped with corruption charges

By Andrew Staub | PA Independent

State Rep. Jose P. Miranda infamously sped away last spring after a reporter from a TV news station asked him about a “ghost employee” in his office.

Monday, he couldn’t get away.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office charged him and his sister, Michelle Wilson, with political corruption. A grand jury investigation found the Philadelphia Democrat hired a “ghost employee” to run his office and then secretly funneled the salary to Wilson, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

READ HIM HIS RIGHTS: State Rep. J.P. Miranda was charged Monday with political corruption after a grand jury said he used a ghost employee at his office to funnel money to his sister.

READ HIM HIS RIGHTS: State Rep. J.P. Miranda was charged Monday with political corruption after a grand jury said he used a ghost employee at his office to funnel money to his sister.

Miranda set up the arrangement, prosecutors said, after the House Democratic Caucus told him hiring his sister as chief of staff would violate ethics rules.

House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, said “the alleged conduct is very disappointing.”

“Legislators hold a position of trust and are held to a high standard under the law. We take any report of criminal or ethical violations very seriously. The grand jury has done its work and the legal process must now unfold,” Dermody said.

The District Attorney’s Public Corruption Task Force began investigating Miranda in May 2013 after the Fox 29 news station captured footage of Timothy Duckett, Miranda’s supposed legislative assistant, working at an auto repair shop when he was supposed to be working for the lawmaker.

As it turns out, Duckett had scant responsibilities for his public position, prosecutors said. He wasn’t expected to work 40 hours a week, didn’t have to sign in or out of the office and only had to chauffeur Miranda upon request, prosecutors said.

The catch? Duckett had to give part of his pay to Wilson, prosecutors said. Now, Miranda, 34, and his 28-year-old sister have been charged with conflict of interest, perjury and criminal conspiracy.

“For a long time it appeared that these types of cases would not be investigated nor prosecuted, but that is no longer the case,” District Attorney Seth Williams said. “We will no longer abdicate our responsibility to investigate and prosecute corruption to other authorities.”

Miranda was first elected in 2012. He must step down if convicted.

Andrew Staub is a reporter for PA Independent and can be reached at Andrew@PAIndependent.com.  Follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.

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