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Ex-Rep. Veon sentenced to 1 to 4 years in prison

Peter Jackson

Former state Rep. Mike Veon, already serving the longest prison term handed out in Pennsylvania's state probe of legislative corruption, was sentenced Tuesday to at least one additional year behind bars for a separate conviction for misusing state funds at a nonprofit organization he once ran.

Dauphin County Judge Bruce Bratton on Tuesday sentenced the one-time House majority whip to a prison term of one to four years, fined him $1,500 and ordered him to pay $119,000 in restitution. He also sentenced the longtime Beaver County lawmaker to four years' probation once he is released.

Veon, a Democratic power broker at the Capitol who is now prisoner JP4714 at Laurel Highlands State Prison in Somerset County, told Bratton he accepted responsibility for his actions and apologized.

He said "it was never my intention to violate the law" and expressed "admiration and respect" for the jury that convicted him in March of charges including theft, conspiracy and conflict of interest for illegally diverting state funds at the Beaver County nonprofit.

Veon's mother, Donna, told the judge she misses the eldest of her five children.

"Mike was never accused of putting a single dime in his pocket," she said, urging Bratton to make any prison term concurrent to the six- to 14-year term he is now serving. "We need (him) back in our lives."

Veon, 55, was among 25 former legislators and aides with ties to the Democratic and Republican caucuses in the state House of Representatives who were charged in an ongoing investigation that the state attorney general's office launched in early 2007.

Veon was sent to prison for his 2010 conviction for misusing public resources, including more than $1 million in taxpayers' money paid out in bonuses to reward legislative employees for campaign work. He still owes nearly $2 million in restitution, according to his lawyer.

In May, Veon and his long-time aide, Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink, were convicted in what prosecutors said was a scheme to use Veon's former nonprofit _ the Beaver Initiative for Growth, or BIG _ as cover for the illegal diversion of state money for political and personal agendas.

All the counts on which Veon and Perretta-Rosepink were convicted involved the use of BIG funds to pay rent on Veon's legislative district offices in Beaver Falls and Midland or rent on a Pittsburgh office. Peretta-Rosepink was sentenced to four years' probation in May.

Prior to sentencing, Bratton acknowledged that he was familiar with Veon's 22-year legislative career and impressed by his "semi-meteoric rise" through the ranks of leadership.

However, the judge said "one of the sadder parts of being here" in Harrisburg is witnessing the fall of many once-respected public officials who "somehow become blind to where the lines are drawn" between legal and illegal activity.

Twelve Democrats and nine Republicans were convicted or have pleaded guilty as a result of the state probe, including former House speakers John Perzel of Philadelphia, a Republican, and Democrat Bill DeWeese of Greene County. Both were sentenced to 2 1/2 to five years in prison.

Two Democratic defendants were acquitted, and charges against a GOP defendant were dropped. On Monday, former Rep. Stephen Stetler, D-York, became the last defendant to go on trial.

The Associated Press