Friday, November 17, 2017

11172017 - Former Merrillville Councilman Thomas Goralczyk - INDICTED

















See the documents: Former Merrillville town councilman Thomas Goralczyk indicted, pleads guilty to bribery charge in towing scandal
NWI Times
November 17, 2017
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/former-merrillville-town-councilman-thomas-goralczyk-indicted-pleads-guilty-to/article_33a4a59a-1358-5bfe-a3ab-7f985395ff83.html
CROWN POINT — A former Merrillville town councilman admitted Friday he took bribes from a federal police informant in exchange for a vehicle towing contract, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Thomas Goralczyk, 51, of Merrillville, was indicted Wednesday by a grand jury in Hammond of felony bribery. He admitted Friday he was guilty of the offense in a plea agreement with prosecutors.

A date for a plea hearing has not yet been scheduled, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Goralczyk, contacted at his home in Merrillville, declined to comment.

Merrillville Town Council President Richard Hardaway said his heart goes out to Goralczyk's family.

Hardaway said he worked with Goralczyk on the council for eight years, and he had believed the former councilman was beyond reproach.

"It's another tough day for the town of Merrillville," Hardaway said.

Goralczyk admitted in the plea agreement he accepted two vehicles from a witness cooperating with the FBI on the promise he would use his influence as a councilman to steer the town's towing contract to the informant's towing company.

The bribes were made between February 2013 and August 2014, the agreement states. He accepted a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee from the informant for $400, when he knew the vehicle's value exceeded $2,500.

He also accepted a 2008 Ford Focus, valued at more than $5,000, for which he paid nothing, the agreement states. He also was provided four camper tires and free storage for a personal motorcycle as part of the deal.

The former councilman attempted to hide the bribes by presenting false bills of sale to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles representing he paid $1,000 for the Jeep Cherokee, and $2,750 for the Ford Focus, the agreement states.

Goralczyk agrees to forfeit $7,500 before sentencing as part of the plea deal.

“Public officials, like Mr. Goralczyk, elected and entrusted to do the public's work, are required to do that work free from self-dealing and graft,” U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II said Friday in a statement. “This is not optional. The public demands and is, in fact, entitled to honest public servants.”

Goralczyk was first elected as a Merrillville town councilman in 2007 and took office in January 2008. He was re-elected in 2011 and began his second term as 4th Ward councilman in January 2012.

He served as president of the Town Council in 2011 and 2015.

He also held various other positions on the Merrillville Redevelopment Commission, Lake County Solid Waste Management Board and the governing board of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, according to the agreement.

The investigation into Goralczyk was first revealed in August at the trial of former Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, who was convicted of wire fraud and bribery for taking cash bribes to steer the county's towing work to favored companies.

Nathan Holbrook, an FBI special agent, testified Aug. 8 at trial the investigation into Buncich began initially with an investigation in 2012 into whether Scott Jurgensen, who was working undercover for the FBI, bribed Goralczyk to get towing work from the town. 
Jurgensen, owner of Samson's Towing, had complained to the FBI special agent he couldn't get towing work because he refused to pay bribes.










Former Merrillville councilman charged with bribery, pleads guilty
Craig Lyons
Post-Tribune
November 17, 2017 - 11:40AM
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-former-merrillville-councilman-indicted-st-1118-20171117-story.html

A former Merrillville town councilman indicted Friday on bribery charges has already pleaded guilty.

Thomas Goralczyk, 51, of Merrillville, was charged for soliciting bribes in exchange for awarding towing contract during his tenure on the Town Council, according to court documents unsealed Friday morning, and filed a guilty plea, admitting he accepted motor vehicles and other items from a tow operator cooperating with the FBI.

"Public officials, like Mr. Goralczyk, elected and entrusted to do the public's work, are required to do that work free from self-dealing and graft. This is not optional," said U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch II in a statement. "The public demands and is, in fact, entitled to honest public servants. Mr. Goralczyk violated this trust for the purpose of enriching himself. This will not be tolerated at any level of government."

The Post-Tribune has reached out to Goralczyk for comment.

The charges allege that Goralczyk "did knowingly and corruptly solicit demand, accept and agree to accept" a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee; a 2008 Ford Focus; four new camper tires; and free storage for a motorcycle from "Individual A" in return for a towing contract from Merrillville, according to court documents.

Goralczyk allegedly presented false bills of sale to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles for the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which he obtained for $400 though the value was in excess of $2,500, and for the Fort Focus, which he accepted for free, according the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"I obtained both of these vehicles for my own personal gain, in exchange for my promise to engage in official conduct by using my influence and power as a Merrillville town councilman to obtain a Town of Merrillville towing contract for the FBI 'cooperating individual's' towing company," Goralczyk said, in the plea agreement.

Federal authorities allege that during the time these items were accepted, the town had received more than $10,000 from a federal grant program.

The case also seeks the forfeiture of the items Goralczyk allegedly accepted as a bribe, according to court documents.

Goralczyk, who represented Ward 4, was seeking his third term on the Merrillville Town Council when he lost the 4th Ward seat to Marge Uzelac, a longtime activist in the town, in the May 2015 Democratic primary.

He had served as council president twice during his two terms.

Goralczyk, during his tenure, helped the town receive a U.S. Department of Energy grant to install 30 solar panels on the roof of town hall in 2010 and led a nearly $1 million renovation of town hall in 2013.

When he was defeated, the town was ready to begin a $3.4 million road project at Taney and Whitcomb streets to improve drainage there.

A few weeks after the 2015 primary election, the town council moved to join the Shared Ethics Advisory Committee.

Goralczyk has been a Merrillville resident for 30 years and works for Northern Indiana Commuter Transit District.

Goralczyk's bribery indictment comes almost a year after former Lake County Sheriff John Buncich and Portage Mayor James Snyder were indicted for soliciting bribes from tow operators.

The FBI's investigation into potential pay to play towing began in 2012, according to testimony in federal court during Buncich's trial. FBI agents spoke with Scott Jurgensen, owner of Samson's Towing in Merrillville, and asked why he didn't get more towing work.

"You don't pay, you're not going to tow," Jurgensen said, during his testimony.

The investigation first looked at town officials in Merrillville and Schererville, according to testimony, but did not lead to any charges at that time.

A jury convicted Buncich in August for using his role as sheriff to assign towing territory to solicit bribes, in the form of campaign contributions. Buncich is scheduled for sentencing on Dec. 6, according to court documents, and his attorneys vowed to appeal the verdict.

Snyder pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to court documents, and is tentatively scheduled for a January 2018 trial.










Ex-Merrillville councilman faces federal bribery charges
Chron
November 17, 2017 - 11:13AM
http://www.chron.com/news/crime/article/Ex-Merrillville-councilman-faces-federal-bribery-12365824.php
MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Court records show that a former councilman for the northwest Indiana town of Merrillville faces federal bribery charges.
The Post-Tribune reports court documents unsealed Friday show 51-year-old Thomas Goralczyk of Merrillville was charged for soliciting bribes between February 2013 and February 2014 in exchange for awarding a towing contract during his time on the Merrillville Town Council.
Court documents say Goralczyk accepted two vehicles, four new camper tires and free motorcycle storage from someone identified as "Individual A" in exchange for the Merrillville contract. The case seeks forfeiture of the items that the 51-year-old Goralczyk is accused of accepting as bribes.
Goralczyk served on the council for two terms but lost a re-election bid in 2015. A message seeking comment left at a Merrillville phone listing for Goralczyk wasn't immediately returned.











Ex-Merrillville Councilman Faces Federal Bribery Charges
Court records show that a former councilman for the northwest Indiana town of Merrillville faces federal bribery charges
US News
November 17, 2017
https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/illinois/articles/2017-11-17/ex-merrillville-councilman-faces-federal-bribery-charges
MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Court records show that a former councilman for the northwest Indiana town of Merrillville faces federal bribery charges.

The Post-Tribune reports court documents unsealed Friday show 51-year-old Thomas Goralczyk of Merrillville was charged for soliciting bribes between February 2013 and February 2014 in exchange for awarding a towing contract during his time on the Merrillville Town Council.

Court documents say Goralczyk accepted two vehicles, four new camper tires and free motorcycle storage from someone identified as "Individual A" in exchange for the Merrillville contract. The case seeks forfeiture of the items that the 51-year-old Goralczyk is accused of accepting as bribes.

Goralczyk served on the council for two terms but lost a re-election bid in 2015. A message seeking comment left at a Merrillville phone listing for Goralczyk wasn't immediately returned.
___

Information from: Post-Tribune, http://posttrib.chicagotribune.com/