A New York State ethics panel has ruled that former state Sen. Pedro Espada of the Bronx broke the law when he hired his uncle for his Senate staff.

Although Espada denied that Juan A. Feliciano Jr. is his uncle after he hired him as a special assistant with an $80,000 annual salary, the Legislative Ethics Commission allegedly disproved that point, reported the New York Post. State law prohibits legislators from directly hiring their immediate relatives. Espada could face a civil penalty or criminal prosecution on a misdemeanor.

Espada and his son are also scheduled to appear before a court in March on federal charges of embezzlement of public funds, reported the New York Post.