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Pew Law Center Blog
March 20, 2012 Lawrence 'D' Pew

Former AZ Lawmaker Miranda Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion and Fraud

Richard D. Miranda

Representative Miranda Resigned from the Legislature in February

After thirteen years of service in the Arizona legislature, 56-year-old Tolleson Democrat Richard Miranda resigned from the House on February 16, 2012, for what he described as family and health reasons, both of which are probably true although not directly. He had quietly served his Arizona constituents since 1999 and is not credited with proposing many bills. Miranda’s sister-in-law (Rep. Catherine H. Miranda D-Dist.16) is an Arizona legislator. Ben R. Miranda (former Rep. D-Dist.16) was serving in the House while his brother Richard was serving in the Senate (D-Dist.13). When Ben left the House in 2011, his wife Catherine took the reins. So, yes, Richard Miranda probably did resign in part for family reasons. But his abrupt resignation was also part of the plea agreement.

White Collar Crime – Fraud and Tax Evasion

Miranda’s educational nonprofit organization is Centro Adelante Campesino, Inc. The non-profit provided GED and job assistance to farmworkers and their families. The organization was incorporated in 1979; Isaac Serna of Phoenix is both president and director. Richard Miranda is still listed as the non-profit’s registered statutory agent, accepting that legal role in 2004. Miranda assumed the position of executive director on July 1, 2002. Centro Adelante Campesino was administratively dissolved on September 29, 2009, by the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) for failure to file a mandatory annual report. However, the non-profit was issued a certificate of reinstatement by the ACC on January 14, 2010, putting the organization in good standing, as it still appears on the ACC’s official website. Miranda resigned from the AZ Latino Caucus Foundation and from Centro Adelante Campesino, too, as part of his plea agreement.

Arraigned in Federal District Court

Miranda appeared before the U.S. District Court judge and pleaded “guilty” to both felony wire fraud and attempted tax evasion.

In a public statement, Miranda accepted responsibility for all of his criminal actions in the matter stating, “I would like to thank my family, friends and supporters in the community. I hope in the future I can overcome the hurt and disappointment I have caused.”

What Miranda did wrong was sell a building owned by the non-profit organization in Surprise, AZ. Selling the building was not the entire problem. The problem was that he sold the property without authority from the board of directors. And then there was the part about his keeping the money for himself. Miranda had the first bank (Marshall & Ilsley Bank) wire the sale proceeds to the Desert Schools Federal Credit Union, Phoenix – the account held by Centro Adelante Campesino, but over which Miranda had sole access and control as executive director. Although he told a volunteer that the proceeds would be used for scholarships, he applied more than $60,000 of the proceeds to pay off his personal credit card debts. And he got caught.

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The FBI played an important part, as James Turgal, Jr., FBI Special Agent in Charge, said in a statement:

“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.”

Miranda Sentencing Scheduled for June

With sentencing scheduled for June 5, Miranda could face 25 years in prison, although it is believed that the sentence will be more in the range of 21 to 27 months with substantial fines and possible probation. The former state legislator will be responsible for paying restitution to Centro Adelante Campesino in the amount of $144,577 (the amount illegally wired on March 7, 2007). He’ll also be liable for unpaid federal taxes in the amount of $56,000.

But Is There More? The Arizona Latino Caucus Foundation

The second non-profit organization that Miranda was deeply involved with, and was required to resign from as part of his plea deal, was the Arizona Latino Caucus Foundation, Inc. (AZLCF). Actually, it started out as the Arizona Latino Legislative Foundation, Inc., but was renamed in 2008.

Miranda served as president and director of the AZLCF right up until his resignation. A lot of money was taken into the AZLCF coffers during fund-raising golf tournaments each year between 2007 (when the organization was formed) through 2010 (when it was administratively dissolved by the ACC, yet later reinstated). The AZLCF was routinely lax in filing its mandatory financial disclosures. It is believed by some that the AZLCF’s income far exceeded what was reported, and that its pattern of lax reporting is indicia of missing assets. The AZLCF’s website was taken offline in January, but the ACC website still shows the non-profit as being in good standing.

Some sources report possible problems surrounding the seven-member board of directors for the AZLCF. Two board members were surprised with news that they were named as board members on the now-archived AZLCF website — Phoenix attorney Ty Taber and APS former director Art Orthon. They didn’t know because they didn’t accept any such position.

Ambassador Raul H. Yzaguirre

Ambassador Raul H. Yzaguirre

In addition to Richard Miranda and Shelby Fletcher, the Assistant Director of Gov’t Relations at Pfizer, Inc., other members of the AZLCF board included Phoenix attorney Ben Miranda (the brother), Ofelia Gonzalez who is the Multicultural Marketing Officer of Desert Schools Federal Credit Union (the very financial institution used in the illegal wire transfer on March 7, 2007) and Ambassador Raul H. Yzaguirre.

Yzaguirre, you may recall, was former president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, leading that organization for 30 years. In 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Yzaguirre to be ambassador to the Dominican Republic. Yzaguirre was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on September 29, 2010.

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