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Ex-Rep. Miranda gets 27 months for charity theft

Former Rep. Richard Miranda

Disgraced former lawmaker Richard Miranda will go to prison for 27 months for stealing from a charity he ran.

Miranda walked out of U.S. District Court unshackled, but he will have to return July 11 to begin serving the sentence imposed by Judge Roslyn Silver, who admitted to being impressed with the Tolleson Democrat’s lifetime of community service and good deeds, but she said she couldn’t in good conscience give him any less time.

“You committed a crime against some very vulnerable victims,” Silver said.

Miranda, who resigned Feb. 16 after serving in the Legislature since 1999, admitted to withdrawing money from Centro Adelante Campesino, which was set up to help children of migrant workers, and used the money to pay personal debts and make several purchases for personal travel, clothing and other items. He pleaded guilty in March to wire fraud and attempted tax evasion.

Silver ordered he pay $230,342.45 in restitution.

Several current and former state lawmakers and Congressman Ed Pastor sent Silver letters praising his character and asking for leniency.

In attendance at the sentencing were his brother Ben Miranda, who served in the Legislature from 2003 to 2010, his sister-in-law, Rep. Catherine Miranda, D-Phoenix, and longtime former lawmakers Pete Rios and Rebecca Rios, as well as several family members. None of them spoke in court.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Battista pointed out that a recurring statement in all the letters was that this was Miranda’s first and only crime, but he reminded Silver that the theft took place over several years.

“Instead of helping others, the defendant decided to help himself,” Battista said. “Once he paid off his credit card debt, he went on a new shopping spree.”

Silver had a sentencing range of 27 to 33 months in prison under federal sentencing policy, but she had the discretion to give him more or less time. Miranda asked for a sentence of less than the 27 months.

“I’m sorry for the hurt I’ve caused,” Miranda said as he stood beside his attorney facing Silver.

His attorney on occasion placed a hand on his back in a soothing gesture as Miranda told Silver he was ashamed for his actions, apologized and promised to redeem himself.

Miranda and his family left the courtroom quickly after the proceeding, declining to comment further.

Pete Rios, a Pinal County supervisor, went out of his way to hug Miranda before the proceeding. He said he was there to support a friend who’s having a rough time.

Rios said justice prevailed.

“You violate the law, you pay the price,” Rios said.

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