WASHINGTON – Richard David Miranda, a former Arizona state representative, pleaded guilty today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona to a two-count information charging him with defrauding a charity of more than $140,000 and evading income tax related to those unlawfully obtained funds.
The guilty plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge James L. Turgal of the FBI’s Phoenix Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Dawn Mertz of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Phoenix office.
“Mr. Miranda, a former member of the Arizona legislature and executive director of a non-profit organization, pleaded guilty today to using over $140,000 of the charity’s funds for his personal expenses, and then failing to disclose the extra income on his tax return,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “Having admitted this illegal conduct, Miranda will now face the consequences of his actions. This Justice Department will continue to hold elected officials, just like ordinary citizens, accountable for their crimes.”
“The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Justice remain steadfast in our efforts to combat public corruption at all levels of government by investigating and prosecuting those who deliberately abuse the public’s trust by using their office for personal gain stated,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge James L. Turgal Jr. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners are committed to holding our elected officials accountable from intentionally engaging in schemes to profit from fraudulent activity and exploiting the faith placed in them by the American public.”
“It is an embarrassment to the state and its people when a state representative deceives those he was elected to represent,” said IRS Special Agent in Charge Mertz. “Former Representative Miranda selfishly defrauded a charity that was established to assist disadvantaged members of the community and used the profits for his own benefit. Those in public office should be held to a higher standard and are not exempt from criminal prosecution.”
Miranda, 55, of Tolleson, Ariz., served as a member of the Arizona House of Representatives for the 13th District from 2011 until his resignation, effective Feb. 20, 2012. Miranda previously served as a member of the Arizona State Senate from 2002 until 2011, and the Arizona House of Representatives from 1999 until 2002. According to court documents, since July 2002, Miranda also served as executive director of Centro Adelante Campesino Inc. (Centro), a non-profit charitable organization that provided food, clothing and educational assistance to persons in need, including migrant farm workers, in and around Maricopa County, Ariz.
According to court documents, in May 2005, Miranda initiated a scheme to wind down Centro, sell Centro’s sole remaining asset (a building), and use the proceeds of the sale for personal expenses. To do so, Miranda removed the charity’s longstanding volunteer accountant as an authorized signer on the charity’s bank and credit union accounts, and assumed sole control of the charity’s accounts and financial records. He also told the volunteer accountant that the proceeds of the sale would be used to fund scholarships. In March 2007, the building was sold for $250,000, and on March 7, 2007, a significant portion of the profits of that sale – $144,576 – were wired across state lines into Centro’s credit union account.
According to court documents, within one week of the wire transfer, Miranda began to withdraw the proceeds from Centro’s credit union account without the authorization or knowledge of Centro’s board of directors. For example, Miranda obtained two checks payable to himself totaling $37,000, and paid off personal credit card debts totaling more than $60,000. By Dec. 31, 2007, Miranda had withdrawn the remaining proceeds (approximately $46,836) using checks, withdrawals and electronic funds transfers, and used the funds to pay off additional personal debts and make numerous purchases for personal travel, services, clothing, food and household items. Miranda also failed to report the proceeds of the sale as income on his IRS Form 1040 for calendar year 2007.
The charge of wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the amount gained or lost in the scheme. The charge of attempt to evade or defeat tax carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Sentencing has been scheduled for June 5, 2012.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Edward T. Kang, Monique T. Abrishami and Brian A. Lichter of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Frederick A. Battista of the District of Arizona. The case is being investigated by agents from the FBI Phoenix Field Office and IRS-CI Phoenix Office.