A man who worked for defense attorneys at the Criminal Justice Center despite a record of a fraud conviction in New Jersey and a resumé riddled with falsehoods, pleaded guilty Monday to cheating the Philadelphia judicial system out of nearly $400,000.

Richard Gottfried, 50, of Rose Tree, Delaware County, a mitigation specialist, was charged with corrupt organization, conspiracy, theft by deception, tampering with public records and forgery.

The former nursery-school teacher could face a minimum of 71 years in the clink and will be sentenced on March 19.

On Monday, two of Gottfried's accomplices also pleaded guilty before Bucks County Senior Judge Ward Clark, who was specially appointed to oversee the case and who traveled to Philadelphia on Monday.

The accomplices are private investigator Ronald Miller and Margaret Porter, aka Margaret Dalton, Gottfried's former employee. Miller will be sentenced on March 19; Porter was given probation.

Clark threw out the charges against Mary Beth MacNichol, Gottfried's estranged wife, after her attorney, Peter Scuderi, filed a motion to quash charges against her due to insufficient evidence.

Gottfried, who worked within the court system from 2001 to 2004, is believed to have billed the city for mitigation work he never performed by forging the signatures of defense attorneys and judges on invoices.

A mitigation specialist assists defense lawyers by looking for factors that will lessen sentences in criminal trials.

Also, Gottfried overbilled the city for work performed and falsely claimed to have testified, at a fee of $600, when records show he hadn't taken the stand.

The total amount bilked by the conspirators is $373,000.

The District Attorney's Office began investigating Gottfried and his cohorts around the time of a June 12, 2002, Daily News article reporting that Gottfried had served 20 months in a federal penitentiary in the mid-1990s after pleading guilty to charges of creating false appraisals on Jersey shore properties.

The article also uncovered false information on Gottfried's resumé. He took credit for designing a training curriculum and claimed to have worked when he actually was in prison.

He also changed the Social Security number on his application with the Philadelphia School District in 1998, the article reported.

In an interview yesterday, MacNichol said she and Gottfried separated when the conspirators were indicted last March. The two had been dating since 1999, when they met at a nursery-school program at the YMCA in Upper Darby. They married in December 2005, and she began divorce proceedings the following March. No divorce has been granted, she said. *