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Former state legislator LaGrotta to be charged with corruption

Former state Rep. Frank LaGrotta today was charged with two felony counts for hiring his sister and niece as legislative assistants in 2006 and paying them thousands of dollars in public money for work they never performed.

LaGrotta, 49, his sister Ann Bartolomeo, 46, and her daughter, Alissa Lemmon, 24, all of Ellwood City, were charged on the recommendation of an investigative grand jury, Attorney General Tom Corbett said.

LaGrotta, who served 10 terms in the House, is charged with two felony counts of conflict of interest. Bartolomeo and Lemmon each face counts of false swearing for allegedly lying to the grand jury.

"This is a case of a public servant abusing his position of trust and power to financially reward his family members at the taxpayers' expense," Corbett said.

LaGrotta was defeated in the May 2006 Democratic primary. He lost his seat in the voter backlash against the 2005 legislative pay raise. LaGrotta had voted for the pay hike, which was rescinded in November 2005. The charges come a day after seven top House Democratic staffers were forced out of their jobs in a move related to the bonus probe.

The investigation lately has focused on the House Democratic leadership, which awarded $1.8 million in bonuses -- some in excess of $25,000 -- when it won control of the House in 2006.

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