FEBRUARY 05, 2008
A veteran Pennsylvania legislator who initially denied creating fake taxpayer-funded jobs for two relatives has admitted that he did in fact commit the felonies, which also violate the portion of the state Ethics Act that forbids hiring family members.
The longtime Democratic state representative from western Pennsylvania, Frank LaGrotta, pleaded guilty this week to the conflict-of-interest charges for putting his sister and niece on his legislative payroll as ghost employees who did nothing yet collected hefty state salaries.
LaGrotta was sentenced to six months of house arrest, probation and community service and he was ordered to pay nearly $30,000 restitution as well as a $10,000 fine. Although he pleaded guilty to a pair of felonies, he will not have to forfeit his lucrative state pension accrued during two decades of public service.
Last fall a state grand jury investigating public corruption charged LaGrotta with hiring his school teacher sister and her daughter for nonexistent work during his final year in the state House of Representatives. For nearly a year the disgraced lawmaker denied the charges, but finally confessed because prosecutors had concrete evidence and he faced a decade in prison.
After entering a guilty plea in a Dauphin County Courthouse this week, LaGrotta apologized to the people of Pennsylvania and said he took full responsibility. He actually got caught during a broader investigation into the widespread practice of legislators illegally paying their staff taxpayer-funded bonuses to do political work.
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