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Veon Guilty Again

Former state House Democratic whip Mike Veon from Beaver County was convicted Monday on 10 counts of theft, conspiracy and conflict of interest charges in his second corruption trial.

The Dauphin County jury also convicted Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink on six counts of theft, conspiracy and conflict of interest charges. Perretta-Rosepink was once Veon's district office manager in Beaver Falls.

Veon and Perretta-Rosepink were accused of misusing state grant money awarded to a nonprofit run by Veon.

Prosecutors said Veon used taxpayers' money to pay rent on his legislative offices and provide a $4,000-a-month retainer to a Harrisburg law firm associated with his legislative chief of staff. That contract resulted in little or no work.

The 55-year-old Veon is already serving at least six years in prison on his 2010 conviction for using more than $1 million in taxpayers' money for bonuses to reward legislative employees for campaign work.

In the trial, prosecutors said Veon used the nonprofit — the Beaver Initiative for Growth, or BIG — as a cover for the illegal diversion of taxpayers' money for his own personal and political agenda. Defense lawyers said the state failed to prove its case.

Besides the $133,000 in retainer payments to ex-chief of staff Jeff Foreman, Veon also used BIG money to rent an additional legislative office in Midland and another office in Pittsburgh, prosecutors said. Foreman pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal with prosecutors that required him to testify against Veon.

Prosecutors said Veon also arranged a $160,000 salary for his brother as an employee of a company that received lucrative no-bid contracts with the House Democratic caucus and BIG.

Veon, who served 22 years in the House, was elected by House Democrats as their whip in 1998 and held that post until voters ousted him in the 2006 election.

Veon's original sentence was the harshest imposed so far in a 5-year-old state corruption investigation into the misuse of taxpayers' money for political purposes.

Of the 25 people arrested in that probe, 12 Democrats and nine Republicans have been convicted or pleaded guilty, including former House speakers John Perzel of Philadelphia, a Republican, and Democrat Bill DeWeese of Greene County.

Perretta-Rosepink, his former aide, has yet to serve a three- to six-month jail term for her conviction in the 2010 case.

Two defendants were acquitted, and charges against a third were dropped. The other defendant, former Rep. Stephen Stetler, D-York, is slated to stand trial in April.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.