By KEVIN NEVERS
Peter Manous, former chair of the Indiana Democrat Party and an attorney for
the carpenters union pension fund trust, was sentenced on Wednesday to 27
months in federal prison and a fine of $200,000 for his role in the kickback
and coverup scheme which greased the sale of 55 acres in Coffee Creek Center
to the pension fund trust.
U.S. Attorney Joe Van Bokkelen told the Chesterton Tribune today that the
27-month sentence was at “the low end” of the federal sentencing guidelines
and that Manous received credit for cooperating in the government’s case
against Kevin Pastrick and for testifying against Carl Paul Ihle Jr. at his
Manous’ fine, Van Bokkelen added, is equal to his split of the $600,000
commission which Sand Creek Sales & Development, Pastrick and Ihle’s firm,
earned for brokering the $10 million deal between the Lake Erie Land Company
and the Northwest Indiana Regional Council of Carpenters Pension Fund Trust.
Although the pension fund trust had asked U.S. District Court Judge Robert
Miller to order Manous to pay $8.5 million in restitution to the pension
fund, Miller declined to do so, after the government argued that it could
take some weeks and unduly delay sentencing to determine restitution, and
that in any case Manous is one of several named in a civil lawsuit filed by
the pension fund which seeks, among other things, actual damages of $5
million from Manous and his co-defendants, threefold damages as provided by
federal and state racketeering laws, and punitive damages.
Van Bokkelen said that establishing a meaningful figure for restitution
would have proved “overly complicated,” inasmuch as the pension fund trust
is, in fact, in possession of a 55-acre asset whose value is not negligible
and is potentially considerable, should it ever be developed. “The issue of
restitution, if any, will be determined in the civil lawsuit.”
Manous will have to serve a minimum of 85 percent of the 27-month sentence
before he’s eligible for release, Van Bokkelen added. He must surrender to
federal corrections officials by Jan. 5.
Manous pleaded guilty in April to an eight-count indictment: one count of
conspiracy, one of influencing the operation of an employee benefit plan,
three of making payments to a union official to influence the operation of
an employee benefit plan, two of making false statements to federal
investigators, and one of obstructing justice.
While more than 50 individuals—including some “fairly prominent people in
Lake County”—wrote letters to Miller requesting him to show leniency in
sentencing Manous, Van Bokkelen said, Miller’s hands were mostly tied by
federal sentencing guidelines, which are specific in both aggravating
factors and mitigating ones. Two mitigating factors applied in Manous’ case:
the fact that he confessed and the fact that he cooperated in the
government’s case against Pastrick as well as in several ongoing
investigations and that he testified against Ihle. Pastrick pleaded guilty
to a seven-count indictment in May. Ihle was convicted in September on five
counts of making false statements to federal investigators and grand juries.
One other person, pension fund trustee Gerry Nannenga, pleaded guilty a year
ago to one count of conspiracy and two of fraud for accepting and concealing
kickbacks in exchange for his vote in favor the land deal.