Rep. Jose Miranda charged with corruption

Democratic State Rep. Jose P. Miranda allegedly funneled a public salary to his sister through a ghost worker, Timothy Duckett because ethics rules prohibited her from being on her brother’s payroll. — Photograph from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Democratic State Representative Jose P. Miranda, 34, and his sister, Michelle Wilson, 28, could face prison time if they’re convicted of the charges announced against them by District Attorney Seth Williams on Monday. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office charged the siblings with three counts each of conflict of interest, perjury and criminal conspiracy. They are expected to surrender to authorities on Tuesday morning.

“In 1903, after a long investigation into the political culture of Philadelphia, Lincoln Steffens wrote ‘Philadelphia was corrupt and contented.’ Thankfully times have changed,” Williams said. “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. This grand jury and the District Attorney’s Office of Philadelphia and the good people of this city are no longer contented with political corruption.”

According to Williams, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Public Corruption Task Force began an investigation into Miranda in May of 2013. It followed a news report by the local Fox News station on a man named Timothy Duckett. Allegedly, Duckett was caught on camera working in his auto repair shop when he was supposed to be working in Miranda’s legislative office.

The investigating grand jury determined that Miranda allegedly hired Duckett as a “ghost employee” to run his legislative office in order to allegedly secretly pay Wilson. Williams alleges that Duckett was hired by Miranda in December of 2012 as a legislative assistant after the state representative attempted to hire his sister as chief of staff. The House Democratic Caucus of the Pennsylvania General Assembly notified Miranda that pursuant to the caucus’ rules and ethics code he could not hire a relative to work for his office. That is when Miranda allegedly contacted Duckett to work for him, with the sole purpose of funneling money to Wilson, who allegedly was the de-facto chief of staff.

Duckett, who was granted limited immunity, allegedly told investigators the he did not have to work 40 hours a week for Miranda’s legislative office, and he was directed to give a portion of his pay to Wilson. Miranda also allegedly told Duckett that he would only be expected to drive him to different locations when called upon. Duckett told the grand jury that Miranda allegedly informed him that he did not need to sign in or out of the office on sign-in sheets as was required of other employees.

Miranda’s political career started at 19 when he worked in City Councilman Darrell Clarke’s office as a community liaison. From there he transitioned to State Senator Shirley Kitchen’s office in the same capacity. He attended William Penn High School and furthered his education at West Chester University where he majored in political science.

When Democrat Jewell Williams gave up his seat representing the 197th House District to become Philadelphia Sheriff, Miranda ran a successful campaign to fill the vacancy left by Williams.

Wilson worked on her brother’s political campaign. After his victory in November 2012, and after being told that he would be unable to hire his sister as chief of staff because of the rules against nepotism, Williams said he decided to try and get around those restrictions.

According to investigators, after Duckett was paid on Feb. 19, 2013, Miranda allegedly told him to give $300.00 to Wilson. Duckett told Miranda he couldn’t afford his own expenses with a $26,000 a year salary. Miranda allegedly secured a $10,000 raise – the only one of his staff members to get such a raise, and between Feb. 20, 2013 and April 2, 2013 Duckett was directed to pay cash amounts to Wilson, who allegedly acted as her brother’s chief of staff. Duckett kept a ledger of the dates and amounts paid to Wilson, which she also signed, and which he later turned over to the grand jury. When questioned by the grand jury, Wilson repeatedly denied ever being paid any money by Duckett for any reason.

“There could have been a legitimate person who had this job,” Williams said. “Someone could have legitimately provided legislative and constituency services and assistance. Instead, it was just a way for Miranda’s sister to line her pockets. I’m not saying Mr. Duckett didn’t know what was going on, and didn’t violate the public’s trust. The grand jury and I believe that the people who deserve our prosecution is State Rep. Jose Miranda and his sister, Michelle Wilson. Mr. Duckett was giving a certain amount to the sister and was then asked to give over even more.”

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Contact staff writer Larry Miller at 215-893-5782 or lmiller@phillytrib.com.

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