Chesterton Tribune

Manous gets prison for role in Coffee Creek land deal

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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 trial.

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.


Posted 11/4/2004