Richard Miranda's Arizona Latino Caucus Foundation Questioned; Former Lawmaker's Conviction This Week Tied to Different Charity
Miranda, a Democrat from Tolleson who resigned abruptly on February 16 after 13 years in the Arizona Legislature, pleaded guilty March 14 to stealing $144,577 from a foundation designed to help Hispanic youths.
Besides the conviction on wire fraud for his thievery, Miranda was also convicted for attempted tax evasion. He's supposed to pay back the money he stole plus about $56,000 in taxes.
He faces up to 25 years in prison when he's sentenced on June 5 before U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver, though he's likely to get about two years behind bars plus fines.
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As court documents (see below) show, Miranda illegally sold a building owned by the non-profit foundation Centro Adelante Campesino, Inc., and pocketed the substantial proceeds.
But Miranda ran another foundation that has raised big bucks since 2007: The Arizona Latino Caucus Foundation.
Art Orthon, former director of community and economic development director for APS, says he never served as a board member for the Arizona Latino Caucus Foundation, despite what the foundation's Web site states.
That foundation, registered as a non-profit with the Arizona Corporation Commission, apparently has failed to disclosed its finances for the last few years. In reports online, it appears that the last time the charity filed its required tax forms was in 2007, when it reported assets of $30,308 and an income of $62,800.
Yet golf tournaments for the Arizona Latino Caucus Foundation raised tens of thousands each year, and the group likely received donations from elsewhere.
The foundation did distribute several scholarships to Hispanic students.
But Gallardo says he worries that much of the contributors' money was misspent.
Researching the issue in the last couple of days, it appears the Latino Caucus Foundation does deserve scrutiny.
The Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office and U.S. Department of Justice declined comment on how or whether the "AZLCF" fits into their investigation of Miranda and the Campesino Foundation.
Richard Miranda didn't return a message.
The Latino foundation's Web site was taken down in January.
However, a stored snapshot on www.archive.org's Wayback Machine shows that golf tournaments were held in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Jose Munoz, a freelance IT consultant who managed the Web site, says that a tournament was also held in 2010.
State records show that Richard Miranda is the president and only director, although Miranda was forced to step down from the foundation as part of his plea deal.
In the Campesino scam, the government alleged that Miranda had sold that organization's property without authorization from its board of directors. So, we decided to call some of the members of the board of directors from the Latino Caucus Foundation -- whose names are listed on the archived Web site -- to see what they knew.
Art Orthon, a former communications director for APS, says he didn't know he was a board member of the foundation and hadn't worked for it in any way.
Ty Taber, a Phoenix attorney, also tells New Times he was surprised to learn he was listed as a board member. He once told Miranda he would consider helping the foundation, but that's about it, he says.
Ofelia Gonzalez, the multicultural marketing officer for the Desert Schools Federal Credit Union, (which was the institution used by Miranda for the Campesino foundation as well), told us she had no comment on the Latino Caucus Foundation and hung up.
Ben Miranda, Richard's brother and a former lawmaker himself, did not return calls from New Times about the foundation. He's also listed as a board member.
Alleged board member Raul Yzaguirre, a former president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, was named as ambassador to the Dominican Republic on September 29, 2010 by President Obama. We haven't tried to call him yet.
It sounds like whatever decisions Richard Miranda made on how to spend the money the Latino Caucus Foundation was raking in, he made alone.
And as we now know, there's no reason to trust that the former lawmaker used all of it for charity.
The guy's a crook.
This screen-shot of an archived Web page from the foundation shows Richard Miranda and sponsor representatives who attended a golf tournament.
According to the foundation's Web site, its mission is "providing mentoring, leadership training and development, and increasing access to and participation in shaping public policy."
A 2008 news article in the Arizona Republic shows that the foundation did do some good, at one point handing out scholarships worth $3,000 apiece to nine people statewide.
However, even if the foundation paid the full cost for all nine of the scholarships mentioned in this article, that only comes to $27,000.
As the foundation's archived Web page shows, the 2008 golf tournament had seven "platinum sponsors." SRP paid $5,000 to the foundation for the 2008 sponsorship, says SRP spokeswoman Kathleen Mascarenas. Doing the math, that means the top sponsors alone shelled out a total of $35,000.
The Arizona Latino Caucus Foundation was an offshoot of the Arizona Legislative Latino Caucus, a political group that Gallardo and other Hispanic lawmakers -- all Democrats -- put together. News reports in May of 2007 reported the foundation's founding.
Gallardo said that the members of the caucus figured forming a foundation could be useful for doling out scholarships and funding education outreach programs, he says.
Richard Miranda then set up the foundation and put himself in control of its finances, Gallardo says.
The foundation was originally called the Arizona Latino Legislative Foundation; Richard Miranda changed the name in 2008.
Gallardo believes that between the foundation's golf tournaments and other donations, it raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.
He and other caucus members asked Miranda repeatedly for financial records for the foundation, but he wouldn't turn them over, which raised "red flags," according to Gallardo.
By 2008, "I decided to keep my distance" from the foundation and didn't want to be associated with it, Gallardo says.
Now, with Miranda's guilty plea on corruption charges that could put him behind bars for up to 25 years, Gallardo is making his suspicions public.
An August 2009 article in the Arizona political blog Rum, Romanism and Rebellion raises serious questions about the foundation and criticizes its "lack of transparency." Yet it doesn't look like any investigation of the foundation has occurred.
Those who contributed to the Arizona Latino Caucus Foundation ought to be worried about where the funds ended up. Miranda should provide an accounting of its finances and reimburse donors if anything was misspent.
But considering the suspicions of Gallardo and others, a probe into the foundation should have occurred a few years ago.
We'll revisit these matters in another post after we learn more.
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