Pa. Lawmaker, Sister Charged In Ghost-Worker Scheme
PHILADELPHIA, Jan 27 (Reuters) - A Pennsylvania state representative was accused on Monday of a so-called ghost employee scam, in which he allegedly hired a no-show worker in order to funnel money to his sister.
Democratic state Rep. Jose Miranda and his sister Michelle Wilson each are charged with criminal conspiracy, perjury and conflict of interest, according to the office of Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.
Miranda allegedly hired an auto repair-shop worker as a legislative assistant to secretly funnel the job's salary to Miranda's sister, the DA's office said. The job pays $36,000 a year.
The ghost employee, Timothy Duckett, was hired in December 2012 after Miranda's attempt to hire his sister outright was thwarted, the district attorney said.
House Democrats informed Miranda he could not hire a family member, Williams said.
Miranda was first elected in November 2012 to represent the 197th state House district in north Philadelphia.
"The alleged conduct is very disappointing," House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody said in a statement. "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 investigation began in May 2013, when a local television station showed footage of Duckett working at an auto repair shop on days he was supposed to be working in Miranda's office, the district attorney said.
A report by the grand jury that heard the case and brought the charges said Miranda told Duckett he would not have to work 40 hours per week. It said the employee testified to regularly driving the lawmaker to the state capitol of Harrisburg and elsewhere.
The grand jury report included a list of cash payments, each of a few hundred dollars, that the Duckett paid or was told to pay to Wilson and Miranda from February to April of last year.
Miranda and his sister were expected to turn themselves in to authorities on Tuesday morning.
Duckett cooperated with the investigation and was not charged, the district attorney said.
(Writing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Andrea Ricci and Dan Grebler)