A state lawmaker from Philadelphia has been charged with conflict of
interest, perjury and criminal conspiracy in connection with his putting a so-called “ghost employee” on the payroll.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office announced Monday that it has charged State Rep. Jose “J.P.” Miranda, a Democrat representing the state’s 197th Legislative District, following an investigation that began last May following a television news investigative report.
The city prosecutor’s office’s Public Corruption Task Force began looking into Miranda after the local Fox affiliate aired a story about the ghost employee, Timothy Duckett, an auto worker.
A grand jury ultimately concluded that Miranda hired Duckett to run his legislative office in order to secretly pay the lawmaker’s sister.
Duckett was hired by Miranda in late 2012 as a legislative assistant after the legislator tried to hire his sister as his chief of staff, but was prevented from doing so by legislative regulations, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors claim that Miranda hired Duckett to work for him with the sole purpose of funneling money to Miranda’s sister, Michelle Wilson.
Duckett, the District Attorney’s Office announced, was told he didn’t have to work 40 hours per week at Miranda’s legislative office, and he was also directed to give a portion of his paycheck to Wilson.
Duckett was further informed that he would only be called upon to drive the lawmaker around to various locations on an as-needed basis.
The so-called ghost employee was also told he didn’t need to sign into or out of the office on sign-in sheets, something required of other office employees.
In a statement released by his office, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams referenced muckraker Lincoln Steffens, who, back in 1903, termed Philadelphia “corrupt and contented.”
“Thankfully times have changed, and I am proud to stand in front of you today to report the findings of a lengthy grand jury investigation,” Williams said in his prepared remarks, which were delivered during a news conference.
Williams, who thanked prosecutors and investigators with the Public Corruption Task Force for their “tenacity and fearless search for the truth,” noted that his office is not content to “sit back and allow corruption to continue in Philadelphia.”
“I am proud of this office,” he stated. “For a long time it appeared that these types of cases would not be investigated nor prosecuted, but that is no longer the case.
“We will no longer abdicate our responsibility to investigate and prosecute corruption to other authorities,” Williams continued. “This grand jury, the District Attorneys Office of Philadelphia, and the good people of the City are no longer contented with political corruption.”
Williams reportedly said this case was the first time in recent memory that the city district attorney, and not state authorities, took the lead on such an investigation.
“In the future we will continue to work with the U.S. Attorney and the Pennsylvania Attorney General when appropriate, but we will not be afraid to try these cases ourselves,” Williams reportedly said during the media event.
Williams also thanked the Pennsylvania State Police for its assistance in the investigation and the House Democratic Caucus for its cooperation in the matter.
Miranda, 34, and Wilson, 28, his sister, were expected to surrender to authorities within the next couple of days.
Wilson was also charged with conflict of interest, perjury and criminal conspiracy for her alleged role in the scheme.
The charges against the lawmaker and his sister are felonies that could land them a lengthy term of imprisonment plus a hefty fine.
Miranda was first elected in November 2012 to represent a legislative district that covers portions of north and northwest Philadelphia, according to a professional biography.
He has served as a community liaison for Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke, and as a spokesman and community liaison on economic issues for State Sen. Shirley M. Kitchen, a fellow Philadelphia Democrat.
Miranda is known for being one of the youngest members of the state House.