Chesterton Tribune



Portage Mayor Snyder and Lake County Sheriff Buncich indicted

Back To Front Page


The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Indiana announced today, just before deadline, the indictment of Portage Mayor James Snyder and Lake County Sheriff John Buncich.

Synder and John Cortina--the latter the owner and operator of a tow business, Kustom Auto Body, 5409 U.S. Highway 6 in Portage--have both been charged with violating the federal bribery statute.

Snyder is alleged to have corruptly solicited and received two checks totaling $12,000 from Cortina and Individual A--also the owner of a tow truck business who voluntarily came forward and cooperated with investigators--in exchange for a towing contract in the City of Portage, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Cortina is charged with corruptly offering those checks to Snyder.

Snyder has been charged as well with a second violation of the federal bribery statute. That count alleges that between Jan. 1, 2012, and Jan. 10, 2014, Snyder corruptly solicited and agreed to accept a bank check in the amount of $13,000 in connection with Portage Board of Works contracts, a Portage Redevelopment Commission project, and other consideration, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

A third charge against Snyder alleges a scheme to obstruct Internal Revenue laws undertaken by Snyder between January 2010 and April 2013, specifically to impede the Internal Revenue Service’s collection of personal taxes owed by Snyder and payroll taxes owed by his mortgage business, First Financial Trust Mortgage (FFTM) LLC. Snyder is alleged to have diverted funds away from FFTM to a sole proprietorship which he created, and submitted three forms to the IRS which failed to disclose, among other things, the existence of the sole proprietorship and its bank account--all during a time when the IRS was attempting to collect the aforementioned tax debt, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.


Meanwhile, Buncich, his chief deputy Timothy Downs, and William Szarmach were named in a multi-count indictment alleging a “deprivation of honest services and receipt of illegal money in connection with towing contracts in Lake County.”

Buncich currently serves at Lake County Sheriff. He earlier served in the same office from 1994-2002, and was re-elected in 2010 and again in 2014. Pursuant to a Lake County ordinance, the sheriff has exclusive authority to determine what entity would do any towing required by the Sheriff’s Department.

Downs is the Chief in the Lake County Sheriff's Department, the second person in command, appointed to that position by Buncich.

Szarmach owns and operates CSA Towing, 2599 DeKalb St. in Lake Station.

The indictment specifically alleges that, from February 2014 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. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the scheme was designed to enrich Buncich personally and his campaign committee, known as Buncich Boosters.

The indictment details a number of checks and cash payments, often collected by Downs, from Szarmach and Individual A--the same Individual A who cooperated in the investigation of Snyder--in exchange for Buncich awarding county towing business and towing in the City of Gary for ordinance violations, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Buncich is also charged individually with a violation of the federal bribery statute and specifically alleged to have corruptly solicited, demanded, and received over $25,000 in cash and $7,000 in checks in exchange for favorable actions by Buncich regarding the towing contracts, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

“These indictments were the result of an extensive, ongoing investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division. Assistance was provided throughout by the Indiana State Police,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

United States Attorney Capp stated, “These investigations are not over,” U.S. Attorney David Capp said. “Our public corruption team will continue its work, particularly into the towing contracts in both Lake and Porter counties.”

Anyone with information related to these public corruption charges is encouraged to call the FBI at (219) 769-3719.



Posted 11/18/2016




Search This Site:

Custom Search