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Perzel joins Veon at lockup near Somerset

| Friday, June 15, 2012, 8:45 p.m.

HARRISBURG -- Former House Speaker John Perzel is serving his prison sentence for misusing public money at Laurel Highlands State Correctional Institution near Somerset, a "dormitory-style" prison for geriatric and sick inmates, Department of Corrections officials said Friday.

Perzel, 62, joins another former state legislator convicted for misusing public funds: former House Democratic Whip Mike Veon, 55, who has been at the prison for about two years. They are not believed to be housed in the same room or building.

For several years, Perzel, a Republican, and Veon teamed up on key issues to push former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell's agenda through a Republican-controlled House.

Perzel was assigned to the prison earlier this month. Susan McNaughton, a Corrections spokeswoman, confirmed Laurel Highlands is Perzel's "home prison," where he'll serve his 2 12- to five-year sentence.

The prison has about 1,400 inmates. About 20 percent of them are sick or elderly, said Betsy Nightingale, who works at Laurel Highlands.

As a new arrival, Perzel was assigned to a "general labor" crew to work on projects as needed.

At Laurel Highlands, inmates are confined in buildings with rooms housing as few as two or as many as 16 inmates, said Nightingale.

Perzel, of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty last year to using state resources for campaigns. He was charged with overseeing a $10 million scheme to purchase state devices, software and data to use in elections.

Veon, formerly of Beaver Falls, was convicted by a Dauphin County jury in 2010 of approving $1.4 million in state-paid bonuses for legislative staffers who did campaign work. He's serving a six- to 14-year prison term.

Most recently, Perzel roomed with former House Speaker Bill DeWeese, a Greene County Democrat, at the Camp Hill State Correctional Institution. DeWeese faces a prison term identical to Perzel.

Perzel's former chief of staff, Brian Preski, and DeWeese's former top aide, Mike Manzo, have both been assigned to Mercer State Correctional Institution. They were both convicted of using public resources for campaigns.

McNaughton said each inmate is evaluated individually and they aren't sent to institutions because they know someone there.

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