Chesterton Tribune



Former Lake County Sheriff's chief, tow operator get probation in towing scandal

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The former chief of the Lake County Sheriff’s Police and a tow operator have been sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to honest services wire fraud, in connection with the bribery scandal which engulfed the former Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Indiana is reporting.

Former LCSP chief Timothy Downs, 67, of Monticello, was sentenced to years of probation and ordered to pay a fine of $6,000.

William Szarmach, 61, of Hobart--who owns CSA Towing in Lake Station and also pleaded guilty to one count of bribery--was also sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay restitution to the IRS.

“According to documents in this case, from February 2014 continuing into October 2016, Buncich, Downs and Szarmach devised a scheme to deprive the citizens of Lake County of their right to the honest services of the Sheriff’s Office,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “The scheme was designed to enrich Buncich personally and his campaign committee, known as Buncich Boosters. The documents detail a number of checks and cash payments, often collected by Downs, from Szarmach and an Individual A in exchange for Buncich awarding county towing business and towing in the City of Gary for ordinance violations. Individual A is the owner of a tow truck business who voluntarily came forward and cooperated with the United States during the course of this investigation.”

Buncich was previously convicted of bribery and wire fraud and is serving a sentence of 15 years and six months in a federal prison.

“Public corruption is a top priority of my office,” U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch said. “Mr. Downs and Mr. Szarmach’s immediate cooperation was instrumental in the prosecution of former Sheriff John Buncich and the court’s sentence reflects these acts. For those involved in public corruption, my office has a team of investigators that are working on investigating all leads related to all acts of public corruption. I encourage anyone with information about such possible corruption to report it to me or to the FBI. Citizens demand, and in fact deserve, honest public service from their elected and appointed officials.”

The case was being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division; and the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General.


Posted 7/10/2018




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