PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A former city representative pleaded guilty to stealing thousands of dollars and was sentenced for theft on Friday. Desiree Peterkin-Bell was arrested and charged in November 2018 after an investigation found she misused two credit cards belonging to a city-related non-profit.
Even after the guilty plea, Peterkin-Bell was defiant.
“I accepted the plea agreement today and I admit to my conduct,” Peterkin-Bell. “That was more about convenience than corruption.”
Peterkin-Bell, who was a cabinet member of former Mayor Michael Nutter, officially pleaded guilty to several misdemeanor counts of theft while serving as a city representative from 2013 to 2015.
“I put my heart and my time in this city,” she said. “I made a mistake. I’m fine with my decision today, but it wasn’t an easy one.”
Peterkin-Bell has been sentenced up to 23 months of house arrest followed by a year of probation after a grand jury found evidence that she illegally used $225,000 of public money to satisfy debts relayed to city events and contracts.
She’s also ordered to pay nearly $20,000 in restitution, money spent on Uber rides, restaurants, hotels, clothing and other goods, through a settlement agreement with the Philadelphia Board of Ethics.
“She’s saying exactly what taxpayers want to here,” Michael Sterling, Peterkin-Bell’s attorney, said. “I apologize, I’m paying back the money. It was never my intention to steal from taxpayers and therefore I’m paying back every single dollar. I think she’s saying it with her actions.”
In a statement, Attorney General Josh Shapiro said, “This defendant took advantage of her high-ranking position of public trust and used taxpayer dollars to enrich herself and fund her own lavish lifestyle.”
Despite pleading guilty, Peterkin-Bell maintains that isn’t true.
“Despite the claim from the AG’s original press conference that I lived a lavish life on the taxpayer’s dime, that is false,” Peterkin-Bell said. “I was not lining my own pockets, but working to fulfill the objectives of a mayor and his cabinet.”