A former member of the Arizona Legislature accused of defrauding a nonprofit he once ran has pleaded guilty in federal court to wire fraud and attempted tax evasion charges.
Former Democratic Rep. Richard Miranda of Tolleson admitted Wednesday to selling a building that belonged to the nonprofit Centro Adelante Campesino without authorization from the group’s board for $250,000 and keeping $144,000 in profits for his personal use.
Federal authorities say the fraud started with a false document that authorized the sale of the building and continued when money for the sale was transferred to Arizona from another state.
“I made some false documents,” the 56-year-old former lawmaker told U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver.
Authorities say Miranda withdrew the money from the nonprofit’s bank account, never disclosed the income on his tax returns and had used the money to pay off personal credit card debts and other personal debts and to make numerous purchases for personal travel, clothing and other items.
A June 5 sentencing date has been set for Miranda, who faces up to up to 25 years in prison, a maximum fine of $350,000 and restitution of at least $144,000.
His lawyer, Jose Montano, estimated that Miranda’s prison sentence would be about two years.
Just before Miranda made the plea, the judge asked the former lawmaker if he knew what he did was wrong.
“Yes,” Miranda answered.
Miranda resigned from the Legislature on Feb. 16, citing family and health concerns. He had been a member of the Legislature since 1999.
He has resigned as executive director of Centro Adelante Campesino, a nonprofit that provides English, GED and computer programs to needy families, including migrant farm workers.
Criminal charges against Miranda hadn’t been made public until Wednesday’s plea hearing.