Thursday, December 13, 2012

12132012 - News Article - Judge tosses dog evidence in Union Twp. murder trial



Judge tosses dog evidence in Union Twp. murder trial
December 13, 2012 - 7:19 pm
Bob Kasarda
NWI Times

VALPARAISO - A judge has ruled bloodhound evidence will not be introduced during the February murder trial involving Union Township resident Dustin McCowan.

McCowan, 20, is accused in the slaying of his former girlfriend, Amanda Bach. Bach, 19, was found shot to death Sept. 17, 2011 about 300 yards from McCowan's house.

Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa said the state Supreme Court ruled in 1917 that bloodhound evidence is inadmissible.

The court analyzed and quoted numerous cases from other states, the majority of which "recognize the fact that such evidence is of a very dangerous character, and that, when received, it is to be with caution, " according to Alexa's ruling.

"While the court agreed that bloodhound dogs are 'carefully trained,' the court ... stated that all dogs 'are not equally unerring, and each may fail at times in being truthful,'" Alexa said.

Alexa also cited a 1985 state Supreme Court case upholding those earlier findings.

Portage-based defense attorney John Vouga said Thursday he believes the judge ruled correctly considering the state's history on the issue of bloodhound evidence.

Porter County Deputy Prosecutor Cheryl Polarek said she believes the bloodhound evidence in this case is strong, but was not surprised by the ruling.

"We understood it could go either way," she said.

The dog in this case had tracked trails from where Bach's body was found to both her car and to McCowan's nearby house.

Polarek said she still has a solid case against McCowan, who is being held without bond at the Porter County Jail until his Feb. 4 trial.

During a bond hearing in November 2011, police unveiled several key pieces of evidence in addition to the bloodhound information, including tracing McCowan's cellphone to the sites where Bach's body and her vehicle were found.

There also is a witness, who identified McCowan as the "Justin Timberlake-looking kid" he saw walking in the area that September day.

Other revelations that surfaced included McCowan's father, Crown Point police Officer Joseph Elliott McCowan, telling investigators a .38-caliber revolver was missing from his home.

Along with that, ammunition for a .38-caliber gun appears to match the bullet taken from Bach's body.

A detective said at the time that of the 90 pieces of evidence collected and up to 150 people interviewed, nothing pointed to anyone but McCowan as being responsible.




Friday, December 7, 2012

12072012 - News Article - Man admits killing wife at her shop



Man admits killing wife at her shop
Post-Tribune (IN)
December 7, 2012
www.newsbank.com

A Chesterton area man admitted Thursday to murdering his estranged wife, shooting her multiple times with an AK-47 assault rifle and leaving her dead with her blood splattered in a fine mist over the walls and ceiling of her Portage business.

Fredrick C. Cashner Jr., 56, pleaded to felony murder with the courtroom filled with family of his victim, Cynthia Cashner, 50.

Porter County Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford set Cashner’s sentencing hearing for 11 a.m. Jan. 3.

If Bradford accepts the terms of the plea agreement, he will sentence Cashner to 45 years in prison, which is the minimum amount of time that Indiana law allows for the required 45- to 65-year sentence.

The plea hearing went quickly with Cashner admitting to going to his wife’s place of business with the assault rifle intending to kill her.

The murder happened on Easter night, April 24, 2011.

Cynthia Cashner was staying at her business, Mystic Moon, on the second floor at 5830 U.S. 6, in Portage, because of problems with Cashner.

She had filed for divorce in March 2011, and a provisional order gave her a vehicle and made her husband responsible for marital bills and health insurance for her.

Fredrick Cashner forced entry into the business by smashing in the downstairs blue security steel door, shattering the glass into a spider web pattern held up by the steel mesh embedded in it.

He shot her eight times in the neck, torso and extremities.

Someone had called 911 about 10:22 p.m., but the dispatcher only heard the labored breathing of what police later presumed was Cynthia Cashner.

The dispatcher tried to get a response, but 20 seconds into the call the dispatcher heard a male voice say, “It’s too late” and something indistinct.

After three or four gunshots, the breathing stopped.

Police found her on an air mattress on her back and right side, legs folded as if she’d sat cross-legged, a laptop computer between her legs.

About 30 minutes into the crime scene investigation, the victim’s son called 911 and said Fredrick Cashner called him and told him he had killed Cynthia and that the son should call 911.

A SWAT team soon surrounded Cashner’s residence in the 300 block of East Tratebas Road when he didn’t answer, but when they said they were coming in with a warrant, he walked out and calmly stated, “What took you so long?” and “I’ve been waiting for you, and there’s no problems here,” according to court documents.

In Cashner’s truck, police found an AK-47 with a round chambered, an extra ammunition magazine for it and a hammer with blue paint flakes that matched the door of Mystic Moon.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

12062012 - News Article - Man admits killing wife at her Portage business; faces 45 years in prison



Man admits killing wife at her Portage business; faces 45 years in prison
Post-Tribune
December 6, 2012 - 3:44PM
http://posttrib.suntimes.com/news/porter/16853192-418/man-admit-killing-wife-at-her-portage-business.html
 

A Chesterton area man admitted Thursday to murdering his estranged wife, shooting her multiple times with an AK-47 assault rifle and leaving her dead with her blood splattered in a fine mist over the walls and ceiling of her Portage business.

Fredrick C. Cashner Jr., 56, pleaded to felony murder with the courtroom filled with family of his victim, Cynthia Cashner, 50.

Porter County Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford set Cashner’s sentencing hearing for 11 a.m. Jan. 3.
If Bradford accepts the terms of the plea agreement, he will sentence Cashner to 45 years in prison, which is the minimum amount of time that Indiana law allows for the required 45- to 65-year sentence.

The plea hearing went quickly with Cashner admitting to going to his wife’s place of business with the assault rifle intending to kill her.

The murder happened on Easter night, April 24, 2011.

Cynthia Cashner was staying at her business, Mystic Moon, on the second floor at 5830 U.S. 6, in Portage, because of problems with Cashner.

She had filed for divorce in March 2011, and a provisional order gave her a vehicle and made her husband responsible for marital bills and health insurance for her.

Fredrick Cashner forced entry into the business by smashing in the downstairs blue security steel door, shattering the glass into a spider web pattern held up by the steel mesh embedded in it.

He shot her eight times in the neck, torso and extremities.

Someone had called 911 about 10:22 p.m., but the dispatcher only heard the labored breathing of what police later presumed was Cynthia Cashner.

The dispatcher tried to get a response, but 20 seconds into the call the dispatcher heard a male voice say, "It’s too late" and something indistinct.

After three or four gunshots, the breathing stopped.

Police found her on an air mattress on her back and right side, legs folded as if she’d sat cross-legged, a laptop computer between her legs.

About 30 minutes into the crime scene investigation, the victim’s son called 911 and said Fredrick Cashner called him and told him he had killed Cynthia and that the son should call 911.

A SWAT team soon surrounded Cashner’s residence in the 300 block of East Tratebas Road when he didn’t answer, but when they said they were coming in with a warrant, he walked out and calmly stated, "What took you so long?" and "I’ve been waiting for you, and there’s no problems here," according to court documents.

In Cashner’s truck, police found an AK-47 with a round chambered, an extra ammunition magazine for it and a hammer with blue paint flakes that matched the door of Mystic Moon.

12062012 - News Article - Porter County man pleads guilty to murdering his estranged wife



Porter County man pleads guilty to murdering his estranged wife
Northwest Indiana Times
December 06, 2012 - 11:51 am
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/porter/portage/porter-county-man-pleads-guilty-to-murdering-his-estranged-wife/article_779a3fd4-fb9f-5b42-86b6-20ab871d6078.html


VALPARAISO | Jackson Township resident Fredrick Cashner Jr. showed no emotion Thursday as he pleaded guilty to murdering his estranged wife in 2011 by repeatedly shooting her with a high-powered semiautomatic rifle.

The 56-year-old's plea is in return for the minimum sentence of 45 years behind bars, which he can complete in half the time with good behavior and participation in various prison programs.

Brian McGowan, who is the brother of 50-year-old murder victim Cynthia Cashner, said the family is pleased with the proposed plea agreement considering there will be no trial and no chance for appeal.

It was McGowan's understanding the defense wanted to argue the shooting was the result of sudden heat and thus should result in a lesser charge.

The family plans to return Jan. 3 when Judge Roger Bradford will decide whether to accept the proposed plea agreement and carry out sentencing, McGowan said. The group has been waiting until that time to spread Cynthia Cashner's ashes.

"We're waiting to put this behind us," he said.

Cashner is accused of killing Cynthia Cashner on April 24, 2011, by firing at least eight bullets into her body.

She was found dead on an air mattress after police received a 911 call about 10:25 p.m. from her Mystic Moon Herbal Shoppe, 5830 U.S. 6, Portage.

Dispatchers reportedly heard faint breathing on the line and nothing else, though on second review, detectives later heard a male voice in the background say, "It's too late," followed by three or four gunshots, police said.

When Bradford asked Fredrick Cashner on Thursday if he intended to kill his estranged wife, he initially said no.

After conferring with his defense attorney, Paul Stracci, Cashner responded with a yes to that question and to others asking if he pointed the gun at the victim and pulled the trigger multiple times.

Cashner's case had been set to go to trial Jan. 7.

Monday, December 3, 2012

12032012 - News Article - Lake Station council looking at possibly abolishing city court



Lake Station council looking at possibly abolishing city court
NWI Times 
Dec 3, 2012 

LAKE STATION | The City Council is looking to possibly abolish city court by Jan. 1, City Attorney Ray Szarmach said.

Szarmach said he was directed by the City Council to draft an ordinance abolishing the court. The council will consider the ordinance at its 6 p.m. Thursday meeting in the municipal complex, 1969 Central Ave.

The main reason for abolishing the city court is due to falling revenues, City Council President Garry Szostek said.

"The court has been losing money for three to four years. ... It has to be discussed," Szostek said.

City Judge Chris Anderson, when reached for comment, said he wasn't aware of the ordinance being considered by the City Council.

Anderson said he planned to research the legality of the move including the status of his term which doesn't end until 2016.

"I don't think it's the right thing to do; it's a bad decision," Anderson said.

The City Council has also ordered an audit of city court finances, Szostek said.

According to state law, a City Council or Town Board can establish or abolish its city or town court every four years, Szarmach said.

"Municipalities are strapped for cash," Szarmach added.

Anderson and city officials have often been at odds this past year, including legal action Anderson initiated and won.

Anderson filed suit after the City Council on June 13 agreed to transfer two clerk positions from Anderson's supervision and budget.

The two positions included the previously fired stepdaughter of Mayor Keith Soderquist.

Anderson's supervision of the two clerk positions and the related budget were restored on Oct. 29 following an order issued by Lake Superior Court Judge Calvin Hawkins.

Anderson said city officials also have continued to criticize him for bringing in less revenue through court fees, claiming he has waived court fees. Anderson denies he has ever waived any court fees.

Rather, total revenue from court-related fees has been reduced because there have been fewer total cases, Anderson said.

Anderson believes the transfer of his two clerks was directly related to him firing the mayor's stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley, on June 7. Soderquist denies that allegation.

Monday, November 26, 2012

11262012 - News Article - Deadline extended for guilty plea in Portage slaying



Deadline extended for guilty plea in Portage slaying
Northwest Indiana Times

Bob Kasarda
November 26, 2012 - 6:30 pm

http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/porter/portage/deadline-extended-for-guilty-plea-in-portage-slaying/article_9fd3c09b-85c8-5a3e-926b-7b636a6920ba.html

VALPARAISO | A Jackson Township man charged in his estranged wife's slaying now has until Dec. 6 to accept a plea agreement.

A judge extended the deadline Monday after Fredrick Cashner Jr. declined to take action on an offer to plead guilty to murder in exchange for a prison sentence of 45 years.

The murder charge carries a potential sentence of 45 to 65 years.

Cashner has no prior criminal history and likely would not receive more than 55 years if found guilty at trial, Porter County Deputy Prosecutor Cheryl Polarek said after the court hearing.

Cashner is accused of killing his estranged wife, 50-year-old Cynthia Cashner, on April 24, 2011, by firing at least eight bullets into her body with a high-powered semiautomatic rifle.

Cynthia Cashner was found dead on an air mattress after police received a 911 call about 10:25 p.m. from the Mystic Moon Herbal Shoppe, 5830 U.S. 6, Portage, which she owned.

Dispatchers reportedly heard faint breathing on the line and nothing else, though on second review, detectives later heard a male voice in the background say, "It's too late," followed by three or four gunshots, police said.

If Cashner does not accept the proposed plea agreement, his case will go trial Jan. 7 before Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford.


Friday, November 23, 2012

11232012 - News Article - Another E.C. city employee to face federal charges



Another E.C. city employee to face federal charges
Times, The (Munster, IN)
November 23, 2012 
EAST CHICAGO -- The marina dockmaster of East Chicago is the latest municipal employee to be painted by federal prosecutors into a mosaic of alleged crimes and corruption dating back several decades. 

Richard Reyes, who remained employed last week as the East Chicago Marina dockmaster, was named earlier this month as one of 23 defendants in a sweeping gang indictment, Hammond federal court records and city officials confirmed. 

Federal prosecutors allege in the case the Imperial Gangsters street gang carried out murders and other organized crimes in the furtherance of its drug trade. 

Specifically, Reyes is charged in Hammond federal court with racketeering, conspiracy to deal cocaine and marijuana, murder in the aid of racketeering activity and murder resulting from the use and carrying of a firearm. 

Reyes, who is being held without bond by the U.S. Marshals and tentatively is scheduled to face trial next year, joins a long list of East Chicago civil servants named in organized crime or corruption cases. 

Reyes' Chicago-based attorney Jack Friedlander told The Times his client is innocent and he intends to defend Reyes "vigorously against false accusations." 

But historically, East Chicago city servants accused by federal authorities of illegal activity have a poor rate of acquittal. 

Holdover from corrupt era 
Reyes, who earns $31,368.22 per year as dockmaster, is a holdover employee from Mayor George Pabey 's administration, having been hired in May 2005, city records show. 

In the prior year, Pabey had defeated former Mayor Robert Pastrick. Pastrick's administration ultimately lost a federal civil racketeering lawsuit brought by the Indiana attorney general. 

Though Pastrick never faced criminal charges, a group of three city councilmen, a city controller, a parks superintendent and a city engineer were convicted of federal crimes in the scheme. The group, who collectively became known as the Sidewalk Six, was found guilty of perpetuating a scheme to curry votes by providing free concrete work for city residents. 

Pabey 's victory came with a hope among the city's electorate that reform of corrupt practices would follow. But Pabey , who once served as Pastrick's police chief, is now serving a five-year federal prison sentence following his 2010 conviction for stealing city resources and putting them into home improvement projects in his home in Gary's Miller neighborhood. 

Also convicted with Pabey was former East Chicago engineering supervisor Jose Camacho, who in 2011 was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for conspiring with Pabey to perform work on Pabey 's house on city time and with municipal resources. 

If viewed as a timeline of alleged corruption or crimes, Pastrick and Pabey would be two of the larger dots in a series of East Chicago civil servants caught up in the federal justice system over the past several decades. 

But many of the East Chicago municipal employees indicted over the years have been farther down the pecking order, and several of them have worn a badge. 

Crime with a police shield 
The late 1980s and early '90s marked an era of drug use and dealing in the East Chicago Police Department. 

In the late 1980s, police officers Donald Miller, Paul Muryasz and Thomas Campbell all pleaded guilty to dealing small amounts of cocaine to fellow officers. 

Also in the mid-1980s, seven police officers reportedly failed a drug-screening urine test, with cocaine being detected in one officer and marijuana in six others. 

The department allowed all officers to take a retest, and all seven then tested clean. But tempers flared in the department ranks, with some officers claiming the re-tested policemen had received preferential treatment. 

The police drug scandals did not end with the new millennium. 

In 2005, East Chicago patrol officer Eligah Johnson was charged by federal prosecutors with buying and selling drugs while on duty and in uniform. 

Johnson pleaded guilty to charges of dealing cocaine and a federal weapons-related charge in February 2006, according to court records. 

And Johnson's alleged supplier, East Chicago building inspector Veta Tyner, also pleaded guilty that same year to cocaine distribution, court records show. 

Second chance 
Being convicted of federal crimes doesn't always keep city employees from securing future employment with the municipality. 

In July 1988, police Sgt. Ronald W. Jackson was convicted of five federal felony drug charges, one for possessing cocaine with intent to sell it and four for using a telephone to arrange a drug transaction. 

Federal authorities alleged Jackson moonlighted as a bodyguard for a region drug kingpin. 

Jackson was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison. 



Despite his legal troubles, Jackson eventually was rehired by the city -- this time to work in the sewer department. East Chicago officials did not respond to Times requests this week seeking confirmation on whether Jackson remained an employee of the city. 

11232012 - News Article - Another E.C. city employee to face federal charges



Another E.C. city employee to face federal charges
Times, The (Munster, IN)
November 23, 2012
EAST CHICAGO -- The marina dockmaster of East Chicago is the latest municipal employee to be painted by federal prosecutors into a mosaic of alleged crimes and corruption dating back several decades. 

Richard Reyes , who remained employed last week as the East Chicago Marina dockmaster, was named earlier this month as one of 23 defendants in a sweeping gang indictment, Hammond federal court records and city officials confirmed. 

Federal prosecutors allege in the case the Imperial Gangsters street gang carried out murders and other organized crimes in the furtherance of its drug trade. 

Specifically, Reyes is charged in Hammond federal court with racketeering, conspiracy to deal cocaine and marijuana, murder in the aid of racketeering activity and murder resulting from the use and carrying of a firearm. 

Reyes , who is being held without bond by the U.S. Marshals and tentatively is scheduled to face trial next year, joins a long list of East Chicago civil servants named in organized crime or corruption cases. 

Reyes ' Chicago-based attorney Jack Friedlander told The Times his client is innocent and he intends to defend Reyes "vigorously against false accusations." 

But historically, East Chicago city servants accused by federal authorities of illegal activity have a poor rate of acquittal. 

Holdover from corrupt era 
Reyes , who earns $31,368.22 per year as dockmaster, is a holdover employee from Mayor George Pabey's administration, having been hired in May 2005, city records show. 

In the prior year, Pabey had defeated former Mayor Robert Pastrick. Pastrick's administration ultimately lost a federal civil racketeering lawsuit brought by the Indiana attorney general. 

Though Pastrick never faced criminal charges, a group of three city councilmen, a city controller, a parks superintendent and a city engineer were convicted of federal crimes in the scheme. The group, who collectively became known as the Sidewalk Six, was found guilty of perpetuating a scheme to curry votes by providing free concrete work for city residents. 

Pabey's victory came with a hope among the city's electorate that reform of corrupt practices would follow. But Pabey, who once served as Pastrick's police chief, is now serving a five-year federal prison sentence following his 2010 conviction for stealing city resources and putting them into home improvement projects in his home in Gary's Miller neighborhood. 

Also convicted with Pabey was former East Chicago engineering supervisor Jose Camacho, who in 2011 was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for conspiring with Pabey to perform work on Pabey's house on city time and with municipal resources. 

If viewed as a timeline of alleged corruption or crimes, Pastrick and Pabey would be two of the larger dots in a series of East Chicago civil servants caught up in the federal justice system over the past several decades. 

But many of the East Chicago municipal employees indicted over the years have been farther down the pecking order, and several of them have worn a badge. 

Crime with a police shield 
The late 1980s and early '90s marked an era of drug use and dealing in the East Chicago Police Department. 

In the late 1980s, police officers Donald Miller, Paul Muryasz and Thomas Campbell all pleaded guilty to dealing small amounts of cocaine to fellow officers. 

Also in the mid-1980s, seven police officers reportedly failed a drug-screening urine test, with cocaine being detected in one officer and marijuana in six others. 

The department allowed all officers to take a retest, and all seven then tested clean. But tempers flared in the department ranks, with some officers claiming the re-tested policemen had received preferential treatment. 

The police drug scandals did not end with the new millennium. 

In 2005, East Chicago patrol officer Eligah Johnson was charged by federal prosecutors with buying and selling drugs while on duty and in uniform. 

Johnson pleaded guilty to charges of dealing cocaine and a federal weapons-related charge in February 2006, according to court records. 

And Johnson's alleged supplier, East Chicago building inspector Veta Tyner, also pleaded guilty that same year to cocaine distribution, court records show. 

Second chance 
Being convicted of federal crimes doesn't always keep city employees from securing future employment with the municipality. 

In July 1988, police Sgt. Ronald W. Jackson was convicted of five federal felony drug charges, one for possessing cocaine with intent to sell it and four for using a telephone to arrange a drug transaction. 

Federal authorities alleged Jackson moonlighted as a bodyguard for a region drug kingpin. 

Jackson was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison. 



Despite his legal troubles, Jackson eventually was rehired by the city -- this time to work in the sewer department. East Chicago officials did not respond to Times requests this week seeking confirmation on whether Jackson remained an employee of the city. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

11162012 - News Article - 2 more Imperial Gangsters plead not guilty



2 more Imperial Gangsters plead not guilty
Post-Tribune (IN)
November 16, 2012 
Two more Imperial Gangster defendants pleaded not guilty Thursday afternoon to racketeering charges after a federal judge ruled that both be held without bond pending their trial. 

East Chicago residents Raymond Campos, 28, and Richard Reyes , 40, are two of the eight new defendants charged in the case last week, and Reyes also is charged with murdering Rene Alonzo in September 2007. 

Campos did not fight his detention, but Reyes ’ attorney, Jack Friedlander, argued that his client should be released despite the seriousness of the charges. 

Friedlander said that a grand jury had already convened on Alonzo’s killing five years ago but that no physical evidence existed then. Friedlander said he suspected the new evidence was testimony from other defendants who wanted to cut a deal with the government in their own cases. 

“I feel the evidence falls quite short,” Friedlander said of the lack of proof that Reyes is a danger to the community. 

He added that Reyes ’ last conviction was 11 years ago and that his only felony conviction was when he was 19. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Nozick said those convictions were spread out over drugs, guns and violence charges, which was concerning. 

“He quite simply needs to be detained,” Nozick said. 



U.S. Judge Andrew Rodovich sided with Nozick, and ordered both Campos and Reyes held pending trial. A trial date is set for January, but that is expected to be continued after the announcement last week of a third superseding indictment. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

11102012 - News Article - More federal charges filed against Imperial Gangsters



More federal charges filed against Imperial Gangsters
Post-Tribune (IN)
November 10, 2012 
Rene Alonzo’s family has waited more than five years to see justice for his killing. 

They, along with the families of three other victims, might finally receive it after the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced an expanded indictment in the East Chicago Imperial Gangsters racketeering case, including numerous murder counts connected to five more killings. 

“It’s been a long time coming,” Richard Alonzo, Rene’s father, said after hearing about the announcement. 

Murder charges 
Federal attorneys had already charged 15 people in the case, most of whom were charged with conspiracy to racketeer and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana and 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. The eight new defendants also face the same charges. 

Defendants in the case were already charged with murder counts connected to the killings of seven people. The new indictment adds five more, including: 

Anuar David Paez, killed July 24, 2004, in East Chicago. Ace Cortez, 33, of East Chicago, faces two murder counts in connection to Paez’s killing. 

Guadalupe Trevino, shot and killed as he and a friend were driving past Gary/Chicago International Airport on July 24, 2005. Jason Medina faces two counts of murder in the case. 

Alonzo, shot and killed after he agreed to drive someone to the U.S. Sports bar on Adler Street in East Chicago on Sept. 16, 2007. Witnesses said someone in a red van driving by fired the shots. Richard Reyes , 40, of East Chicago, faces two counts of murder in the case

Mario Soriano, killed on March 25, 2008, in Hammond. Julian Guillermo Serna, 23, of Munster, faces two counts of murder in the case. 

The conspiracy count also says that unnamed members of the Imperial Gangsters shot and killed Martin Navarro on July 7, 2004, in East Chicago while the 17-year-old was standing on his front porch. It also says Julius Solis, 23, of East Chicago, murdered Alonzo Cavanoz on May 3, 2009, although no charges were filed specifically in connection with those crimes. 

The indictment details other violent acts by the gangsters, including firebombing the house of a rival gang member and beating someone up because he refused to join the gang. 

Juan Briseno, who already faced 10 counts of murder in connection to five killings, is now also charged with three counts of attempted murder and three counts of using a gun in relation to a violent crime. Another new defendant, Julius Solis, also faces one count each of attempted murder and use of a gun during a violent crime. 

The indictment says Briseno has been in contact with his fellow gang members since his arrest more than two years ago, including telling them how to recruit new members, about the quality of drugs and the possibility that he might meet a new drug connection while in jail. 

“We are determined to rid Northwest Indiana of these (criminals),” U.S. Attorney David Capp said Friday afternoon at a news conference announcing the indictment. 

All the defendants charged with murder could face the death penalty, although a final decision to pursue that sentence would be made by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Officials were supposed to discuss the possibility of doing so for Briseno at a meeting Monday in Washington, D.C. Capp said Friday he still does not have an answer on that but expects one soon. 

Probe to continue 
Capp said the investigation into the Imperial Gangsters remains ongoing. He credited the agencies involved — the FBI, ATF, Gary Police Department, East Chicago Police Department, Hammond Police Department and the Lake County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area — for their cooperative work in bringing more charges. He also praised Assistant U.S. Attorney David Nozick, who has been prosecuting the case since it was announced a year ago, for his effort. 

East Chicago Police Chief Mark Becker said recent crime statistics from the FBI featured East Chicago “prominently” and that he had been asked by the media about his reaction to that. 

“A large part of my response is right here,” Becker said, pointing to the surrounding law enforcement officials. “Look at who’s standing up here, and unified we stand up here.” 

Bob Jones, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Indianapolis, said the Imperial Gangsters had waged violence on the community for years. 

“Not any more,” he said. 

Four of the new defendants — Raymond Campos, 28, of East Chicago; Eddie Torres, 42, of East Chicago; Reyes ; and Ace Cortez — were arrested Friday morning. The other new defendants — Salvador Chavez, 33, of Chicago; Darmaile Cortez Sutton, 29, of East Chicago; Serna; and Solis — were already in jail on other charges. 

Capp said the government will move to detain all of them without bond pending trial. 

Family pleased 
Rene Alonzo’s family said the charges won’t bring him back, but they’re still happy to hear someone will be held responsible. 

“It was great,” his father said of hearing the news. “... I always had hope that they would get the guy.” 

He said his son was a hard union worker who was employed with his father and brother at BP. Rene worked every day to provide for his two children and girlfriend, Erica Renee Badillo, Richard Alonzo said. They lived together in Griffith, and he had plans to build a new house. 

“He had no enemies,” Richard Alonzo said. 

Badillo said their children have had to live with the pain of not seeing him again. 

“The pain will always still be there,” she said. “It’s been tormenting my kids to be without their father.” 

Friday, November 2, 2012

11272012 - News Article - Stepdaughter of Lake Station mayor files discrimination claim against city judge



Stepdaughter of Lake Station mayor files discrimination claim against city judge
NWI Times
November 2, 2012 - 7:00 pm 

LAKE STATION | The stepdaughter of Mayor Keith Soderquist has filed a discrimination claim against City Judge Chris Anderson.

Miranda Brakley, who was fired from her court clerk position by Anderson, said the termination was based on retaliation and the fact she is a Hispanic woman.

The claim was filed earlier this year with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission in Indianapolis.

In the claim, Brakley said she began employment with the city of Lake Station on Jan. 1, 2008.

Before being discharged on June 7, Brakely had held the position of deputy court clerk.

In the court filing, Brakley said Anderson told her she was no longer a court clerk because of "trust" issues.

"I had never received any verbal or written write-ups with regard to my job performance," Brakley said in the claim.

Brakley said she was the only woman of Hispanic origin who worked in the court clerk's office.

"I believe that I have been discriminated against because of my sex, female; my national origin, Mexican; and retaliated against for reporting illegal actions in violation of the Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964," Brakley said in the claim.

Karen Bellinger, of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said she could not comment on the case because of confidentiality laws.

Brakley could not be reached for further comment and Anderson declined to comment.

Soderquist said he had nothing to with his stepdaughter's case.

"I neither hired her nor fired her. Those issues are out of my control," Soderquist said.

Anderson filed a suit against city officials earlier this year after the City Council on June 13 transferred two clerk positions out of the judge's supervision and budget and into that of the clerk-treasurer.

One of those clerks was Brakley.

Anderson's supervision of the two clerk positions and related budget were restored on Oct. 28 following an agreed order issued by Lake Superior Court Judge Calvin Hawkins.

Anderson has said he believes the transfer was directly related to him firing Brakley.

Soderquist has continued to deny that allegation.

Friday, October 5, 2012

10052012 - News Article - U.S. attorney salutes IRS for latest round of charges



U.S. attorney salutes IRS for latest round of charges
Post-Tribune (IN)
October 5, 2012
As news of more public corruption in Lake County broke Thursday, local officials expressed concern and the need to continue fighting back against illegal actions by politicians. 

U.S. Attorney David Capp said during a news conference Thursday that the indictments came from his office’s “very active” task force investigating public corruption. Although Capp couldn’t explain why public officials in Lake County continue to violate the law despite the dozens of past convictions, he said his office will continue to pursue these cases. 

He gave credit to the FBI , the IRS and the Indiana State Police for helping investigate the cases, saying most of the indictments came from the hard work of the IRS. 

Rich Weber, chief of the IRS Criminal Investigation unit, said public corruption is a large focus for the IRS and public officials who do not file or file false tax returns “will simply not be tolerated.” 

Weber said the IRS does not focus on Northwest Indiana specifically but will investigate tax fraud anywhere. 

“Unexplained wealth has always been the Achilles’ heel of those who criminally violate their positions of trust,” Weber said. “ ... They are faced with a huge dilemma — enjoying the fruits of their crime without being detected by the IRS. Their efforts seem futile.” 

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she was stunned at the indictment against Common Council member Marilyn Krusas. “I’m sorry to hear about it. I wish Marilyn the best. One of the things I’ve learned as an attorney is you’re innocent until proven guilty.” 

Gary Common Council President Kyle Allen Sr. said the news took him off-guard but that Krusas is innocent until proven guilty. 

“It’s unfortunate, and I hate to see it happen,” Allen said. “I was surprised.” 

Merrillville Town Council President Shawn Pettit said the town will aggressively seek restitution from former Town Court clerk Virlissa Crenshaw like it did with former bookkeeper Rosemary Barath, who also stole money from the town. 

“We want to recoup as much as we can as quickly as we can,” said Pettit. “If there’s a reverse mortgage, PERF (Public Employee Retirement Fund), whatever, we’ll go after it. (Clerk-Treasurer) Gene (Guernsey) won’t let that money go.” 

The bulk of the money Barath took was reimbursed through a reverse mortgage on her house. The town also received her pension. 

Pettit said Crenshaw’s actions were unfortunate for the town and its employees. 

Pettit said he did not know if the town could seek repayment of the full $310,325 Crenshaw is believed to have stolen, or just the $176,763 named in the plea agreement signed by Crenshaw. 

He applauded Town Court Judge Gina Jones for working diligently with the Indiana State Police on the matter and called Crenshaw’s actions unfortunate. 

“You would have thought employees would’ve learned from Rosemary. It’s a shame one or two bad apples ruin it for everyone else,” Pettit said, adding most town employees are hard-working and honest. 

Jones, who initiated the investigation when she noticed discrepancies, would not comment on the indictment on Thursday. 

Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr. said the indictment of City Councilman Alfonso Salinas was not surprising considering federal investigators interviewed city employees, including the mayor. 

“It’s not a big shock,” McDermott said. “It’s sad since I know Al on a personal level; he’s a nice man with a nice family. But if it’s true, he let the city down.” 

McDermott said the city had done business with Munster businessman David Johnson for years but that relationship is “completely severed now.” 

McDermott said East Chicago City Council member Juda Parks pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, so he would not lose his elected office. 

“It wouldn’t be my right to encourage him to leave,” said McDermott, who is the chairman of the Lake County Democratic Party. “From what I understand, failure to file (income taxes) is obviously not good, but it’s comparatively minor.” 

Correspondents Michelle L. Quinn and Karen Caffarini contributed to this story. 

10052012 - News Article - Feds deliver public corruption indictments



Feds deliver public corruption indictments
Post-Tribune (IN)
October 5, 2012 

HAMMOND — Federal indictments rained down Thursday on three Lake County elected officials, a former Merrillville Town Court clerk, the former director of the East Chicago Public Library and a Munster businessman. 

U.S. Attorney David Capp announced the grand jury charges that followed investigations conducted by the Northern District of Indiana’s Public Corruption Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gary Bell and Philip Benson will prosecute the cases. The Public Corruption Task Force is a multi-agency effort whose primary participants are the FBI, the Indiana State Police and the Internal Revenue Service. 

Public corruption indictments announced are: 
Gary Common Councilwoman Marilyn Krusas , 69 — charged with one count of tax evasion. The indictment claims Krusas , who has served as a councilwoman since 2000, hasn’t filed a federal income tax return since 1991. In 2001, the IRS started sending her notices of taxes and penalties owed that eventually added up to $157,413. However, according to the indictment, when she received in 2009 and 2010 inheritance payments totalling $232,680, she used the money to pay down other debt and to write $110,000 in cashier’s checks to herself and a relative instead of pay her debt to the federal government. 

Krusas surrendered herself Thursday afternoon to the U.S. Marshals Service and pleaded not guilty to the charge before U.S. Judge Andrew Rodovich. She was released on a $20,000 bond and had to turn over her passport. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Bell said during her initial appearance that the goverment’s case would take about three to four days to present at trial. Rodovich set a status hearing for Dec. 9. 

Her attorney, Scott King, said he has known about the case for several months and that none of it has anything to do with her position as a city councilwoman. 

“Her conduct as a public official has been above reproach,” he said. 

King said that Krusas planned to stay on the City Council for now but they would discuss her future. 

Not only does Krusas faces up to five years in prison on the felony count if convicted, but she would also immediately lose her office. 

Virlissa Crenshaw, 42, of East Chicago — charged with theft from a local government entity and with filing a false tax return for the 2009 tax year. 

The offenses relate to Crenshaw’s theft of cash bonds while working as a clerk for the Merrillville Town Court in 2008. Crenshaw was the only one responsible for the bonds during after hours. The Indiana State Board of Accounts discovered in an audit that the records books did not match the actual money collected. 

Crenshaw is also being sued by the state for the missing money, and that lawsuit claims she would sometimes use bond money from one defendant to cover the missing bond from another defendant to cover her tracks. 

Crenshaw, who is married to a nephew of Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter, signed a plea agreement filed in conjunction with the indictment admitting her guilt to all charges. The loss to the town of Merrillville is $176,763 and the tax loss to the United States is $55,203. 

Crenshaw faces up to 10 years in prison for pleading guilty to the counts, although the government promises not to prosecute her husband with any criminal tax charges. The government will also recommend she serve the minimum of federal sentencing guidelines. 

Crenshaw’s change of plea hearing is scheduled for Tuesday morning. 

Manuel Montalvo, 38, of East Chicago — charged with two counts of filing false tax returns for the tax years 2009 and 2010. The indictment alleges that Montalvo, the former director of the East Chicago Public Library, overstated unreimbursed business expenses and medical/dental expenses by a total of $80,577. 

It was unclear as of Thursday evening if Montalvo, who was arrested Thursday morning, had made his initial appearance. He faces up to three years in prison if convicted. 

This is not Montalvo’s first brush with the law. Montalvo, who also once served as the Lake County Democratic Party secretary, was found guilty in 2010 of battery against two South Shore commuter railroad police officers, disorderly conduct and criminal tresspass. The conviction was in connection to a fight he got into with police while trying to get on a South Shore train. 

He was sentenced to a year of court supervision and 40 hours of community service. 

East Chicago City Councilman Juda Parks, 40 — charged with two counts of failure to file income tax returns for the tax years 2008 and 2009. Parks, who is also an East Chicago police officer, owes the IRS $10,123 in taxes for that time period. 

Parks signed a plea agreement filed in conjunction with the indictment admitting his guilt to all charges and agreeing to cooperate with the government. The plea agreement says the total tax loss is $15,160, which he agrees to pay to the IRS along with any penalties and interest. 

U.S. Attorney David Capp said Thursday that Parks has agreed to cooperate with the government’s “ongoing investigations.” 

Parks, who was supposed to turn himself in Thursday, faces up to one year in prison. Because the charge is a misdemeanor, he can still continue to serve on the East Chicago City Council. 

A change of plea hearing had not been scheduled as of Thursday evening. 

Hammond City Councilman Alfonso Salinas, 52 — charged with receipt of a bribe by an agent of a local government receiving federal funds. Salinas is the District 2 councilman for Hammond and has held that office since 1995. 

David Johnson, 56, of Munster, owner of Dave’s Tree Service — charged with payment of a bribe to an agent of a local government receiving federal funds. 

The indictment alleges that Johnson paid Salinas $10,500 in exchange for Salinas giving Johnson $310,000 worth of work trimming trees in Salinas’ district. The money for the trees came from casino tax revenue that each Hammond council membes gets to benefit his or her district. 

Salinas is also charged with four counts of willful failure to file tax returns for tax years 2006 through 2009. 

The federal government has also filed a forfeiture allegation against Salinas, demanding he pay back the $10,500 to the government. 

It was unclear if Salinas, who was arrested Thursday morning, or Johnson have had their initial appearance. 
Caption: Guy Rhodes Leslie Adkins 
Memo: Fact Box: Indicted Thursday in federal court 

Marilyn Krusas , Gary city councilwoman 

Juda Parks, East Chicago city councilman 

Alfonso Salinas, Hammond city councilman 

Manual Montalvo, former director of the East Chicago Public Library 

Virlissa Crenshaw, East Chicago, former Merrillville Town Court clerk 

David Johnson, Munster businessman 

Statement from the U.S. Attorney 

“Our public corruption task force is very active and we are certainly interested in hearing from any citizen who believes he or she may have some information to help us in that regard.” 
— U.S. Attorney David Capp 



Citizens may contact the FBI office with information at 769-3719. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

10042012 - News Article - Feds to announce details of public corruption investigation



Feds to announce details of public corruption investigation
Post-Tribune (IN)
October 4, 2012
The U.S. Attorney’s office in Hammond will announce details Thursday morning of an “ongoing investigation of public corruption,” according to a release. 

The office will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. at the U.S. District Court in Hammond. 

The news release did not have any more details on what will be announced, and Mary Hatton, spokeswoman for the office, said she had no comment. 

The news conference will come a year after the U.S. Attorney’s office’s last announcement of public corruption cases. U.S. Attorney David Capp then announced indictments against three Lake County Sheriff’s Department officers and a separate indictment against former Lake County Coroner Thomas Philpot. 

The officers — Edward Kabella , Joseph Kumstar and Ronald Slusser — all pleaded guilty to buying guns illegally through the Sheriff’s Department and then selling parts online. Kabella is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 17. Sentencings for the other two have not been set. 

A federal jury found Philpot guilty this summer of theft and wire fraud while he was Lake County clerk. His sentencing has not been scheduled. 

10042012 - News Article - NW Indiana council members face federal charges



NW Indiana council members face federal charges
Associated Press State Wire: Indiana (IN)
October 4, 2012 
HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) — City council members from Gary, Hammond and East Chicago, a former Merrillville town court clerk, the former head of the East Chicago library and a Munster contractor have been indicted on federal charges. 

The U.S. attorney's office says Gary City Councilwoman Marilyn Krusas , Hammond Councilman Alfonso Salinas and East Chicago city councilman Juda Parks are all charged with failing to file tax returns. Salinas also is charged with receipt of a bribe by an agent of a local government receiving federal funds. 



Former East Chicago Public Library Director Manuel Montalvo is charged with filing false tax returns. Former Merrillville Town Court Clerk Virlissa Crenshaw of East Chicago is charged with theft from a local government entity and filing a false tax return. 

10042012 - News Article - Indiana city council members indicted on tax charges



Indiana city council members indicted on tax charges
Associated Press State Wire: Indiana (IN)
October 4, 2012 
HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) — A sweeping indictment released Thursday accuses a Hammond city councilman of accepting kickbacks to steer city contracts toward a local business, a Gary councilwoman of failing to file tax returns for 20 years, and others of filing faulty tax returns. 

Hammond Councilman Alfonso Salinas, Gary Councilwoman Marilyn Krusas and East Chicago Councilman Juda Parks were all indicted on charges of failing to file tax returns. Salinas also is facing bribery charges. 

A former Merrillville town court clerk, the former head of the East Chicago library and a Munster contractor also were indicted following an investigation by the U.S. attorney into tax fraud. 

"Failure to file tax returns and the filing of false tax returns by public officials will not be tolerated. Those who disobey the tax laws will be held accountable," said Richard Weber, chief of the IRS' criminal investigation unit. 

Salinas, 52, a city council member in Hammond since 1995, is accused of steering $310,000 toward a Munster tree-cutting service in exchange for a $10,500 kickback. He is charged with receipt of a bribe by an agent of a local government receiving federal funds, while David Johnson, owner of Dave's Tree Service, was charged with payment of a bribe to an agent of a local government receiving federal funds. 

According to the indictment, Salinas accepted at least $10,500 from Johnson, 56, as payment for hiring his company to work in Hammond. Salinas also is charged with four counts of willful failure to file tax returns for tax years 2006 through 2009. 

Phone messages left for Salinas at his city council office and for Johnson at his company by The Associated Press weren't returned. 

The indictment alleges that Krusas , a Gary City Council member since 2000, has failed to file tax returns since 1991, and allegedly committed several acts of evasion in connection with an inheritance of $230,000. A message left at the 69-year-old's office seeking comment also wasn't immediately returned. 

Parks, 40, an East Chicago police officer and city councilman since 2008, was charged with two counts of failure to file income tax returns for the tax years 2008 and 2009. 

Parks signed a plea agreement that was filed in conjunction with the indictment admitting his guilt to all charges and agreeing to cooperate with the government. Parks declined comment on the charges. 

The former director of the East Chicago Public Library, Manuel Montalvo, is charged with filing false tax returns for the tax years 2009 and 2010. The indictment alleges he overstated unreimbursed business expenses and medical-dental expenses. 

A listed phone number couldn't be found for Montalvo on Thursday. 

Former Merrillville Town Court Clerk Virlissa Crenshaw of East Chicago is charged with theft from a local government entity and filing a false tax return. The indictment says the charge involves theft of cash bonds while working for the town court. 

Crenshaw signed a plea agreement that was filed with the indictment admitting her guilt to all charges. The loss to the town of Merrillville is $176,763, according to the court documents. 

A call to Crenshaw's home was met with a message saying the number could not be reached at this time. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

09102012 - News Article - Jan. 7 trial set for Portage murder case



Jan. 7 trial set for Portage murder case
Northwest Indiana Times
September 10, 2012 - 1:00 pm
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/porter/portage/jan-trial-set-for-portage-murder-case/article_11813b28-a6f2-5d87-ade3-9d41d2c637a1.html

VALPARAISO | A Jan. 7 trial date has been set for a Jackson Township resident charged with killing his estranged wife April 24, 2011, by firing at least eight bullets into her body with a high-powered semiautomatic rifle.

Defense attorney Paul Stracci told the court Monday morning he and prosecutors have been unable to settle on a plea agreement in the case against Fredrick Cashner Jr.

Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford set a pretrial hearing for Nov. 26 and told the attorneys that will be the last date a deal will be accepted short of Cashner pleading guilty to the crime as charged.

Cashner, of the 300 block of East Tratebas Road, has pleaded not guilty to the single charge of murder, which carries a potential sentence of 45 to 65 years in prison.

Cynthia Cashner, 50, was found dead on an air mattress after police received a 911 call about 10:25 p.m. from the Mystic Moon Herbal Shoppe, 5830 U.S. 6, Portage, which she owned.

Dispatchers reportedly heard faint breathing on the line and nothing else, though on second review, detectives later heard a male voice in the background say, "It's too late," followed by three or four gunshots, police said.

Friday, August 17, 2012

08172012 - News Article - Philpot asks to have federal indictment tossed



Philpot asks to have federal indictment tossed
Post-Tribune (IN)
August 17, 2012
Ignorance is bliss. 

Or as former Lake County Clerk Thomas Philpot sees it, ignorance is an acquittal. 

Just five days before his criminal trial is scheduled to start, Philpot, who now serves as the Lake County coroner, has filed a motion to dismiss federal charges claiming he illegally took money while he was Lake County clerk that he was not supposed to receive without the Lake County Council’s approval, which federal prosecutors claim he didn’t have. 

The motion says that not only did Philpot not know about this requirement or that the council never approved the payment but that federal prosecutors purposely misled a federal grand jury about these and other facts in the case. 

“The government knew that a Grand Jury presented with accurate information about Philpot would be unlikely to return an indictment,” the motion says. “So it altered its evidence in order to obtain an indictment of Mr. Philpot. Numerous items of false and misleading evidence were presented to the Grand Jury.” 

The indictment, which was filed last September, charges that from 2004 to 2009, Philpot paid himself a total $24,702 from a state and federal incentive fund paid to county employees who help collect child support payments. Indiana law requires elected officials to have the permission of their fiscal body, which in this case is the Lake County Council, take payments from the fund. 

Philpot argues throughout his motion to dismiss that he never knew about the law, which he calls obscure, and that he couldn’t have known the County Council never gave its permission because he rarely attended its meetings. 

Philpot also filed another motion Wednesday evening, arguing that the government had no evidence to prove that Philpot knew he wasn’t supposed to take the money. 

“While the materials are utterly devoid of evidence necessary to establish the requisite criminal knowledge and intent, we expect to adduce ample evidence of Mr. Philpot’s good faith,” the filing says. 

The motion also points to his steps to seek legal advice in 2008 — four years after he first started taking the payments — from the clerk’s attorney, David Saks, who said in a letter that the funds in question for 2007 had been approved by the Lake County Council and thus were permissible. 

When the question arose again two years later after a report by the Post-Tribune, Philpot sought the legal opinion of the County Council’s attorney, John Dull, who informed Philpot he did not have the permission of the council. 

Philpot argues in the motion to dismiss that the grand jury never heard about him seeking legal advice from Dull, something else that federal attorneys hid from them. 

However, federal attorneys say in their own motion, filed Wednesday evening, that any evidence regarding Dull’s legal opinion is not relevant to the case because it came after the period, 2004 to 2009, named in the indictment. The government’s motion asks that that evidence not be allowed at the trial. 

Philpot: FBI agent lied 
Philpot’s motion to dismiss also claims that when the possibility of the payments was first brought to his attention in 2004 by his deputy, Sandra Radoja, he asked her to find out if it was legal. Radoja then asked a state employee, the motion says, who never mentioned the requirement for elected officials. 

However, Philpot claims an FBI agent lied to the grand jury about this and claimed Radoja was not clear in previous testimony about what she told Philpot. 

The motion also disputes testimony by the FBI agent claiming that no state official had any duty to check that Philpot had the legal authority to take the payments. It says that the Lake County auditor should have checked. 

It also notes that both the auditor and two members of the Lake County Board of Commissioners signed off on all the checks Philpot received from the fund. 

Philpot also argues that prosecutors should have told the grand jury he returned the money after news of it came out in the Post-Tribune. 

The motion says the federal government didn’t even start investigating the case until Philpot admitted in public he erred in taking the money and paid it back. However, Philpot’s admission came after the Post-Tribune’s report, which U.S. Attorney David Capp has said helped spark the investigation . 

The motion to dismiss says the defense did not get the evidence from the grand jury hearings until earlier this month. 



It is unclear what the motion means for Philpot’s trial, which is scheduled to start Monday morning with jury selection at the U.S. District Court in Hammond.