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Former Arizona legislator sentenced to prison

PHOENIX — A federal judge on Monday discounted requests for leniency and
sentenced a former Arizona legislator to more than two years in prison for his
“unmitigated greed” in defrauding a charity he once headed of nearly $145,000.

U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver sentenced former Rep. Richard Miranda to 27
months — the maximum under a plea agreement with prosecutors — and ordered him
to pay approximately $230,000 in restitution.

The restitution includes $212,000 to the charity, Centro Adelante Campesino.

“I am sorry for the hurt that I have caused to everybody,” Miranda told
Silver before she sentenced him.

The Tolleson Democrat pleaded guilty March 14 to federal charges of wire fraud
and tax evasion.

Miranda, 56, resigned suddenly from the Legislature on Feb. 16, citing
family and health concerns. He had been a state lawmaker since 1999, serving in
both the House and Senate.

Miranda’s lawyer provided Silver with about 20 letters in which U.S. Rep. Ed
Pastor, current and former legislators and others asked for leniency.

Some of the letter writers requested probation, and Silver said the letters
written on Miranda’s behalf indicated he was regarded as a “very good man” for
his years of public service.

However, the judge said Miranda abused positions of trust and was motivated by
“unmitigated greed.”

“It wasn’t just a mistake,” Silver said, adding later, “It was nothing other
than for selfishness.”

Earlier, Assistant U.S. Attorney Frederick Battista credited Miranda with
admitting his guilt and cooperating with authorities once they confronted him
with evidence of his crimes.

But those crimes consisted of “cheating” both the charity and the public by
diverting money from the charity so he could spend it on travel, shopping and
other personal expenses while not reporting it as income, the prosecutor said.

“This is an individual that should be passing laws, strengthening laws, not
violating them,” Battista said.

Instead of helping others, “the defendant decided to help himself,” the
prosecutor said.

According to court papers, Miranda arranged the sale of a building owned by the
charity and pocketed part of the proceeds after falsifying documents and taking
other steps to allow him to cover up his conduct.

The charity provides English lessons, general- equivalency diploma instruction
and computer assistance to needy families, particularly farmworkers.

“You committed a crime against the very vulnerable,” Silver told Miranda,
whose parents were migrant farmworkers.

Those who wrote letters on Miranda’s behalf included former state Sen. Pete
Rios, now chairman of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors.

Rios said Miranda used “poor judgment” in connection with the charity but had
a record of bending over backward to help students and the elderly.

“As opposed to incarceration, community work and restitution would benefit
society to a much larger extent,” Rios said.

Miranda, who is to report July 11 to begin serving his prison term, pleaded
guilty to charges with maximum prison terms of 25 years. However, the plea
agreement accepted by Silver provided a sentencing range of 21 to 27 months.

The restitution that Miranda agreed to pay includes approximately $18,000 owed
to the Arizona Latino Caucus Foundation.

Battista said Miranda diverted money from the caucus for personal expenses such
as golf, shopping and pool supplies.