Former state rep enters guilty plea in 'ghost employee' case

By Jim Boyle | Jan 21, 2015

PHILADELPHIA - A former state representative for the 197th district in Philadelphia

pleaded guilty Wednesday in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to one felony charge of conflict of interest and one misdemeanor of false swearing stemming from his January 2014 indictment for funneling payments to his sister through a "ghost employee."

J.P. Miranda, a Democrat who served one term in the state General Assembly, will receive his sentence in March for the charges. He and his sister, Michelle Wilson, originally faced three felonies following a grand jury investigation, but the plea deal removed the felony count.

The Philadelphia prosecutor’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 Wilson, who also pleaded guilty before Judge Edward C. Wright.

Duckett was allegedly 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 allegedly 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 allegedly told he didn’t need to sign into or out of the office on sign-in sheets, something required of other office employees.

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 ran for re-election last May, but lost in the primary to Leslie Acosta, who was elected in November.

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