(Update) J.P. Miranda, Pa. state rep, charged for funneling pay to sister

Jose "JP" Miranda
Jose “JP” Miranda

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced today that state Rep. Jose P. Miranda (D-197th dist.), 34, known as J.P. Miranda, is charged with perjury and criminal conspiracy for allegedly hiring his sister to work in his office, paying her through a “straw employee” and lying to conceal his actions.

Both Miranda and and his sister, Michelle Wilson, 28, will turn themselves in Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. at the D.A.’s office, a spokeswoman said.

“Philadelphians … are affronted by this kind of theft,” Williams said. “Philadelphians don’t want it this way — they don’t want their tax dollars wasted.”

Miranda wanted to hire Wilson as his chief of staff, but Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus rules prohibit hiring relatives at political offices.

A grand jury investigation concluded that Miranda decided to “circumvent the rules” by paying Timothy Duckett, a former driver for his office, as a full-time employee, and having Duckett give up part of his paycheck to Wilson.

Duckett was highlighted in a May 2013 broadcasts by FOX 29, which described him as a “ghost employee” and showed that he was working at his auto repair shop while listed as a full-time employee in Miranda’s legislative office.

That news story led directly to this investigation, D.A. Williams said.

Duckett has been granted immunity in this case in return for his cooperation with the investigation.

“Yes, he was committing a crime … [but] in some ways, he was a victim himself,” Williams said of Duckett.

Miranda and Wilson are each charged with conflict of interest, perjury and criminal conspiracy.

Williams said that both repeatedly lied to the grand jury to conceal their arrangement.

“The alleged conduct is very disappointing. I have not spoken with Representative Miranda but any allegation of misconduct raises serious concern,” said House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody. “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.”

Pennsylvania Democratic House Caucus spokesman Bill Patton said that Miranda would not face any consequences at his elected office while the case was pending.

“In terms of House rules, nothing happens to a member unless they were convicted,” Patton said.

The Pennsylvania Republican City Committee executive director, Joseph DeFelice also released a statement on the charges.

“While it is nice to see our DA finally using his ‘Dream Team’ of public corruption prosecutors, we wonder why this is his starting point,” DeFelice said. “Why no prosecutions of Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, for instance?”

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