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Lake County municipal officials face federal charges

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HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) — A sweeping indictment released Thursday accuses a Hammond city councilman of accepting kickbacks to steer city contracts toward a local business, a Gary councilwoman of failing to file tax returns for 20 years, and others of filing faulty tax returns.

Hammond Councilman Alfonso Salinas, Gary Councilwoman Marilyn Krusas and East Chicago Councilman Juda Parks were all indicted on charges of failing to file tax returns. Salinas also is facing bribery charges.

A former Merrillville town court clerk, the former head of the East Chicago library and a Munster contractor also were indicted following an investigation by the U.S. attorney into tax fraud.

"Failure to file tax returns and the filing of false tax returns by public officials will not be tolerated. Those who disobey the tax laws will be held accountable,” said Richard Weber, chief of the IRS’ criminal investigation unit.

Salinas, 52, a city council member in Hammond since 1995, is accused of steering $310,000 toward a Munster tree-cutting service in exchange for a $10,500 kickback. He is charged with receipt of a bribe by an agent of a local government receiving federal funds, while David Johnson, owner of Dave’s Tree Service, was charged with payment of a bribe to an agent of a local government receiving federal funds.

According to the indictment, Salinas accepted at least $10,500 from Johnson, 56, as payment for hiring his company to work in Hammond. Salinas also is charged with four counts of willful failure to file tax returns for tax years 2006 through 2009.

Phone messages left for Salinas at his city council office and for Johnson at his company by The Associated Press weren’t returned.

The indictment alleges that Krusas, a Gary City Council member since 2000, has failed to file tax returns since 1991, and allegedly committed several acts of evasion in connection with an inheritance of $230,000. A message left at the 69-year-old’s office seeking comment also wasn’t immediately returned.

Parks, 40, an East Chicago police officer and city councilman since 2008, was charged with two counts of failure to file income tax returns for the tax years 2008 and 2009.

Parks signed a plea agreement that was filed in conjunction with the indictment admitting his guilt to all charges and agreeing to cooperate with the government. Parks declined comment on the charges.

The former director of the East Chicago Public Library, Manuel Montalvo, is charged with filing false tax returns for the tax years 2009 and 2010. The indictment alleges he overstated unreimbursed business expenses and medical-dental expenses.

A listed phone number couldn’t be found for Montalvo on Thursday.

Former Merrillville Town Court Clerk Virlissa Crenshaw of East Chicago is charged with theft from a local government entity and filing a false tax return. The indictment says the charge involves theft of cash bonds while working for the town court.

Crenshaw signed a plea agreement that was filed with the indictment admitting her guilt to all charges. The loss to the town of Merrillville is $176,763, according to the court documents.

A call to Crenshaw’s home was met with a message saying the number could not be reached at this time.