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