Thursday, June 20, 2013

[IN] Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist - FBI Investigation - Indictment - Conviction

10142016 - Former Indiana Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist - Begins Federal Sentence For Public Corruption




10142016 - Deborah Soderquist - Wife of Former Indiana Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist - Begins Federal Sentence For Public Corruption












-- September 28, 2016 -- 
Soderquists sentenced on federal corruption charges

Former Mayor Keith Soderquist - Sentenced to 4 years in prison

Deborah Soderquist - Sentenced to 2 years in prison


Keith and Deborah Soderquist ordered to pay over  $26,000 in restitution to Lake Station and the IRS


Keith and Deborah Soderquist will begin their prison terms on November 14, 2016.








-  April 16, 2014  - 





-  April 16, 2014  - 





 -  September 11, 2015  - 
Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and wife, Deborah Soderquist, verdict:  Guilty of ALL Federal charges: conspiracy, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing false income tax returns





- January 24, 2016 - 
Plea bargain filed
Former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist - Admits he assisted his stepdaughter - Miranda Brakley - to hide court bond money she stole. 

Deborah Soderquist - Dropped appeal rights in September 2015 federal case. Federal attorneys are dropping all charges against her in the federal case against Miranda Brakley

Miranda Brakley - Agreed to plead guilty to one count of theft from a program receiving federal funds. The government will drop a second count of lying on her bankruptcy filing.





- June 2016 -
State's criminal investigation of former Lake Station former City Court Clerk Miranda Brakley's failure to transmit possibly hundreds of drunk driving convictions to the BMV.





- June 24, 2016 -
Soderquists' Sentencing Date - Re-Scheduled to September 26, 2016 
Former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist's and Deborah Soderquist's July 13th sentencing date postponed due to State's criminal investigation of former Lake Station former City Court Clerk Miranda Brakley's failure to transmit possibly hundreds of drunk driving convictions to the BMV.
Brakley's concealment of driving convictions came to the attention of the Lake County Prosecutor in May - following the drunk driving arrest of Randolph L.  Palmateer [business manager for the Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council and who also serves on numerous public boards].
Prosecutor Clark discovered that Palmateer's first drunk driving conviction - in 2011 - was not on his driving record, due to Brakley's failure to transmit the conviction to the BMV. 
It is unknown at this time, if Brakley received kickbacks for concealing drunk driving convictions [See: Richard James' article - The return of the infamous 'bar tab']





- July 07, 2016 - 
Brakley's Sentencing - Plea Bargain
Miranda Brakley - Six months home detention and two years probation.  Brakley must pay a fine of $664, the remaining 4 percent of the money she took





-  August 31, 2016  - 
Soderquist admitted to recording and listening to phone calls of City Hall employees
Soderquist had recorded approximately 425,000 calls between Oct. 12, 2011, and Aug. 13, 2015, and continued the activity even after being released on bond as his federal corruption cases were pending, according to a sentencing agreement filed Wednesday in federal court.





****************************************




No charges against former Lake Station court clerk
Bill Dolan
January 04, 2017
NWI Times
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/crime-and-court/no-charges-against-former-lake-station-court-clerk/article_52e94f13-0f3c-532a-8b38-ac962b78d359.html


LAKE STATION — A special prosecutor won't charge a former court clerk for letting hundreds of serious traffic offenders go unpunished.

However, LaPorte County Prosecutor John M. Espar states Miranda Brakley committed "gross malfeasance" for failing to report to state officials the reckless and drunken driving convictions taking place in Lake Station City Court between 2008 and 2012.

Espar's findings as a special prosecutor state Lake Station traffic convictions should have been sent to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles so officials in Indianapolis could assess penalties, including driving license suspensions on traffic violators.

Instead, Brakley stored them, unreported, in court files without the knowledge of local or BMV officials.

Espar said there is no evidence she or anyone else committed bribery, official misconduct or was a ghost employee.

Local officials finally sent records of 700 Lake Station traffic convictions last June to the BMV, which belatedly applied administrative penalties against the drivers.

Brakley and her attorney, Thomas Vanes, declined to comment Wednesday.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter, who called for Espar's independent investigation last June, said Wednesday, "I'm satisfied with his findings."

Carter praised Indiana State Police investigators Sgt. Al Williamson, Detective Christopher Campione and Trooper John Holmen for "their thorough job in the case."

Scrutiny of Lake Station City Court began following the March 25 arrest of Randolph L. “Randy” Palmateer, business manager for the Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council, by Hammond police at a sobriety checkpoint.

The Lake County prosecutor's office originally charged Palmateer with operating while intoxicated, then let him plead guilty to the reduced charge of reckless driving six weeks later.

When The Times questioned why Palmateer had avoided an OWI conviction for the second time in five years, Carter said he didn't know Palmateer had received a similar plea-agreement reduction in Lake Station City Court in 2011.

Carter said his staff was misled, because it had checked Palmateer's record through the BMV and found no 2011 conviction, because the City Court never reported it to the BMV.

Carter then widened his search and found other OWI cases that weren't transmitted downstate from Lake Station. He called in state police and Espar to determine if a crime was committed and who was responsible for it.

Espar said state police investigators questioned numerous witnesses, including former and current city judges, clerks and deputy clerks, BMV representatives and technicians of the county's court database of traffic violation records.

Espar said the evidence established Brakley was primarily responsible for sending SR-16 forms, containing details of Lake Station City Court traffic convictions to the BMV.

He said they have city records that Brakley reported to work while at the court, discounting any suspicion she was a ghost employee.

He said there isn't any evidence Brakley solicited or accepted bribes to conceal the conviction to benefit violators.

He said the General Assembly changed the legal definition of official misconduct in 2011 to decriminalize a public official's failure to perform official duties.

He said any of Brakley's failures to report convictions to the BMV before 2011 is now beyond the state's five-year statute of limitations.










Former Lake Station mayor reports to prison
Carrie Napoleon
Post-Tribune
October 15, 2016 - 6:48PM
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/crime/ct-pbt-lake-station-mayor-prison-st-1016-20161015-story.html


Former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist reported to prison Friday to begin his four-year prison term for public corruption, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons website.

Soderquist, 47, is listed as an inmate in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago.

Soderquist was sentenced last month to 42 months for crimes he committed with his wife, followed by another six months for abetting his stepdaughter in committing a crime.

His wife, Deborah Soderquist, 58, was sentenced to two years in prison and his stepdaughter, Miranda Brakely, 36, received a six-month home detention sentence. She pleaded guilty to one count of theft from a program receiving federal funds.

The couple must also pay more than $26,000 in restitution to the city of Lake Station and to the Internal Revenue Service.

A jury found the couple guilty of using money from his campaign fund and the Lake Station Food Pantry to pay for dozens of gambling trips to Michigan.

Soderquist also pleaded guilty to helping Brakely hide thousands of dollars she stole from the city when she worked there as a court clerk.

And this summer Soderquist admitted in court documents to recording and listening to thousands of phone calls made by city hall employees since 2011, including a call made from a phone in the private chambers of a Lake Station City Court judge. Though he wasn't charged for the wiretapping, it factored into the sentencing, documents said.












Former Lake Station mayor begins serving federal sentence
Updated: 10/15/2016 9:58 AM
Chicago Daily Herald
http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20161015/news/310159956/

HAMMOND, Ind. -- Former Lake Station mayor Keith Soderquist has begun serving a four-year federal prison term for public corruption.

The (Northwest Indiana) Times reports (http://bit.ly/2drqhFm ) that, as of Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons website showed the 47-year-old Soderquist was in custody at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago.

Soderquist and his 58-year-old wife, Deborah, were found guilty of using campaign money and city food pantry funds to gamble. His wife is scheduled to surrender Oct. 31 to begin a two-year sentence.

Keith Soderquist had asked a U.S. district court judge to postpone his sentence to allow him time to have surgery this past week, but that surgery date was canceled.

Soderquist served nearly eight years in office in the northwest Indiana city.












Former Lake Station mayor reports to prison
Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328
Oct 14, 2016
NWI The Times
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/crime-and-court/former-lake-station-mayor-reports-to-prison/article_32653cc2-b039-513a-9621-57e78f3aed0c.html


HAMMOND — Former Lake Station mayor Keith Soderquist has begun his prison term for public corruption.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons website Friday states Soderquist, 47, of Lake Station, is in custody at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago. He is serving a four-year sentence.

His 58-year-old wife, Deborah, is currently scheduled to surrender Oct. 31 to the U.S. Marshal’s service for her two-year sentence.

The Lake Station couple misused tens of thousands of dollars from the mayor’s re-election campaign fund and the city’s food pantry account to gamble at nearby casinos. The former mayor also is being punished for attempting to cover up his stepdaughter Miranda Brakley’s embezzlement of Lake Station City Court money.

Keith Soderquist had asked U.S. District Court Judges Rudy Lozano and James Moody last month to postpone his sentence to give him time to undergo surgery, which had been scheduled to take place Thursday.

The judges agreed that if he underwent surgery Thursday he could put off his prison reporting date until Nov. 14.

But, Soderquist’s lawyers filed a new petition this week for another delay since his surgery date was canceled. His insurance company hadn’t agreed last month to approve the medical procedure.

The Bureau of Prisons website doesn’t state where the couple will serve their time. Their lawyers last month asked for them to live at a nearby minimum security facility that would allow them to visit their medical providers.

Lozano said last month he is confident the two can receive adequate health care services from the Bureau of Prisons.

Keith Soderquist, who had served nearly eight years in office, came under state and federal scrutiny four years ago following a public feud between him and former Lake Station City Judge Christopher A. Anderson, who was elected to replace Soderquist in the mayor’s office.

Anderson fired Miranda Brakley, the mayor’s stepdaughter, for stealing money held by the court from those arrested and posting bond in Lake Station.

Federal authorities discovered Keith and Deborah Soderquist lost more than $100,000 between 2009 and 2012 at casino slot machines and made dozens of withdrawals during the same three years from his campaign fund and the city’s food pantry account.

A jury last year also found the former mayor and his wife guilty after an eight-day trial of all counts. Brakley, 35, of Lake Station, received six months home detention July 7 for her guilty plea to the theft.












UPDATE: Former Lake Station mayor sentenced to 4 years
Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328
Updated October 03, 2016
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/crime-and-court/former-lake-station-mayor-sentenced-to-as-much-as-months/article_0f54b6f5-2aa1-590f-92c3-fd4513cb4caa.html


HAMMOND — The former Lake Station mayor who wagered and lost the public trust is going to prison.

U.S. District Court Judges Rudy Lozano and James Moody on Wednesday sentenced 47-year-old Keith Soderquist to 48 months, and ordered him to pay $4,184 in restitution to the city of Lake Station and $22,571 to the IRS.

Soderquist’s 58-year-old wife, Deborah Soderquist, was sentenced to 24 months in prison and was ordered to share in restitution payments. She ran Lake Station’s food pantry and was treasurer of her husband’s election campaigns.

The Lake Station couple misused tens of thousands of dollars from the mayor’s re-election campaign fund and the city’s food pantry account to gamble at nearby casinos. The former mayor received a 42-month sentence for that fraud.

He received an additional six-month sentence for attempting to cover up his stepdaughter Miranda Brakley’s embezzlement of Lake Station City Court money.

Federal prosecutors had asked that he be sentenced to prison immediately, but Moody agreed to allow him to self-report at a specified date. The former mayor is scheduled to have neck surgery Oct. 13.

However, Moody did give the former mayor a tongue lashing.

“You stole from the food pantry? That’s obscene. I’ve sentenced many politicians in my 40 years here, but what you have done. ... Your city is full of people who are unemployed, underpaid and on welfare. What the hell were you thinking of? Are you goofy? Answer me!” the judge demanded.

The former mayor answered “no.” Moody continued, “So what you did is all right?” Shame on you.”

Soderquist, who had served nearly eight years in office, came under state and federal scrutiny four years ago following a public feud between him and former Lake Station City Judge Christopher A. Anderson, who was elected to replace Soderquist in the mayor’s office.

Anderson fired Miranda Brakley, the mayor’s stepdaughter, for stealing money held by the court from those arrested and posting bond in Lake Station.

Soderquist defended his stepdaughter and supported efforts to abolish City Court. Anderson called for an investigation of the Soderquists.

Federal authorities discovered Keith and Deborah Soderquist lost more than $100,000 between 2009 and 2012 at casino slot machines. They made dozens of withdrawals during the three-year period totaling $35,304.25 from his campaign fund and $5,040 from the city’s food pantry account.

A federal grand jury charged Keith and Deborah Soderquist in 2014 with 11 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud and filing false tax returns for criminal misuse of the public funds and covering it up.

A jury last year also found the former mayor and his wife guilty after an eight-day trial of all counts.

Afterward, the government became aware the former mayor had installed in the Lake Station City Hall a system to secretly record telephone conversations and listened to about 30 of the recorded calls made or received by potential government witnesses.

The Soderquists have dropped plans to appeal their convictions, and the former mayor admits to his role in the telephone recording scheme under an agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office to forestall the government from filing additional charges against him or his wife.

Lawyers for both Soderquists argued Wednesday for leniency on grounds their health will deteriorate in prison. Deborah Soderquist suffers from diabetes, muscular dystrophy, degenerative bone disorders and a cancerous lesion on her left kidney.

Brakley, 35, of Lake Station, received six months home detention followed by two years probation July 7 for her guilty plea to the theft.










Ex-mayor, wife sentenced in gambling plot
Associated Press
The Journal Gazette
September 30, 2016 1:00 AM
http://www.journalgazette.net/news/local/indiana/Ex-mayor--wife-sentenced-in-gambling-plot-15531351

HAMMOND – The former mayor of Lake Station will serve four years in prison and pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines for using campaign money and city food pantry funds to gamble.

Keith Soderquist’s wife, Deborah Soderquist, was also sentenced in U.S. District Court in Hammond on Wednesday. The judge ordered her to serve two years in prison. The Soderquists must also pay over $26,000 in restitution to Lake Station and the IRS.

A jury found the couple guilty last September of using $35,304.25 from the former mayor’s campaign and $5,040 from the city’s food pantry on dozens of gambling trips to Michigan. Federal authorities said the Soderquists lost more than $100,000 from 2009 to 2012.

Keith Soderquist also pleaded guilty earlier this year to helping his stepdaughter, Miranda Brakely, hide thousands of dollars she stole from the city during her time as a court clerk. Brakely was sentenced to six months of home detention.

According to court documents Soderquist also admitted this summer to recording and listening to thousands of phone calls city hall employees made since 2011. Soderquist was not charged with the wiretapping however it was considered during sentencing documents said.

The defense for the couple asked that the medical issues that the Soderquists require treatment for be taken into consideration before serving their sentences. Keith Soderquist is scheduled to have neck surgery on Oct. 13, according to defense attorney Scott King.

Deborah Soderquist asked for her hearing to be pushed back due to her CT scan scheduled the day after her sentencing. She has suffered from a variety of medical ailments since her 20s.

Judge Rudy Lozano said Deborah Soderquist will serve her sentence in a prison with a medical facility.

The couple made brief statements to the court prior to being sentenced.

“I would like to sincerely apologize to my wife, my two daughters, my family, my friends and to all those who had to endure this process. I am sorry,” Keith Soderquist said.

Deborah Soderquist followed her husband and said, “I would just like to apologize to everyone that was affected by my actions.”

The couple will both begin their sentences on Nov. 14.












Former Lake Station mayor, wife sentenced in gambling scheme
Associated Press
Published: September 29, 2016, 1:26 pm
WishTV.Com
http://wishtv.com/2016/09/29/former-lake-station-mayor-wife-sentenced-in-gambling-scheme/


HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) – The former mayor of Lake Station will serve four years in prison and pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines for using campaign money and city food pantry funds to gamble.

Keith Soderquist’s wife, Deborah Soderquist, was also sentenced in U.S. District Court in Hammond on Wednesday. The judge ordered her to serve two years in prison.

The Soderquists must also pay over $26,000 in restitution to Lake Station and the IRS.

A jury found the couple guilty in September of using money from his campaign and the food pantry on dozens of gambling trips to Michigan.

Keith Soderquist also pleaded guilty earlier this year to helping his stepdaughter, Miranda Brakely, hide thousands of dollars she stole from the city during her time as a court clerk.

Brakely was sentenced to six months of home detention.










Soderquist's wife denied delay in sentencing due to health
Sarah Reese sarah.reese@nwi.com, (219) 933-3351
Updated Sep 29, 2016
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/crime-and-court/soderquist-s-wife-denied-delay-in-sentencing-due-to-health/article_c8eab4bb-36e8-5fad-8c50-fc4c541ad9b0.html


HAMMOND — The wife of Lake Station’s disgraced former mayor on Wednesday sought to delay her sentencing because of medical issues, but a federal judge quickly denied her motion, court records show.

A sentencing hearing for Deborah Soderquist, 58, and husband Keith Soderquist remains scheduled for next Wednesday in U.S. District Court. They were convicted of improperly taking money from his re-election campaign fund and the city’s food pantry account to gamble at casinos.

Deborah Soderquist’s attorney, Visvaldis Kupsis, filed a motion Wednesday seeking to delay the hearing, because she has been diagnosed with a recurrent kidney cancer and has a CT scan scheduled for the day after the hearing. the filing noted the U.S. attorney’s office was opposed to the request, and Judge Rudy Lozano denied her motion.

In a separate filing Wednesday, Deborah Soderquist asked Lozano to sentence her to 18 months in a halfway house. Guidelines call for a sentence of 24 to 30 months.

“Some cases call for mercy, and this is one of them,” a sentencing memorandum said. “Mrs. Soderquist’s medical conditions are very real and the danger imposed is also very real.”

In addition to kidney cancer, Deborah Soderquist has a myotonic dystrophy, is undergoing physical therapy for a number of issues and likely will require surgery related to her various conditions, according to court records.

The federal Bureau of Prisons cannot accommodate her need for the types of treatment recommended by her doctors, according to the sentencing memorandum.

Deborah Soderquist also is asking the court to grant her 60 days to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons, which would allow her to complete some of her medical care.

Keith Soderquist faces an enhanced term of 42 months at sentencing, court records said.










Judge sentences former Lake Station mayor to 4 years in prison: 'Shame on you' 
Becky Jacobs
Post-Tribune
September 28, 2016 - 8:34 PM
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-soderquist-federal-sentencings-st-0929-20160928-story.html


Federal judges had strong words for a former Lake Station mayor and his wife Wednesday, particularly about the money they used from the Lake Station food pantry.

"What were you thinking? Are you goofy or what?" Judge James Moody asked in a raised voice to Keith Soderquist.

After a brief, silent pause, Moody asked Soderquist to answer him, and Soderquist replied, "no."

"You took full advantage of (the poor)," Moody said. "Shame on you."

In a full day of parties shuffling between courtrooms, medical documents and court transcripts, Keith and Deborah Soderquist were sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Hammond.

Keith Soderquist was ordered to spend four years in prison — 42 months for his crimes with his wife followed by 6 months for aiding his stepdaughter — while Deborah Soderquist was sentenced to two years in prison. The couple must also pay more than $26,000 in restitution to the city of Lake Station and to the IRS.

Last September, a jury found the couple guilty of using money from his campaign fund and the food pantry on dozens of gambling trips to Michigan.

Earlier this year, Keith Soderquist also pleaded guilty to helping his stepdaughter, Miranda Brakely — who was sentenced to six months of home detention — hide thousands of dollars she stole from the city when she worked there as a court clerk.

And this summer Soderquist admitted in court documents to recording and listening to thousands of phone calls city hall employees made since 2011, including a call made from a phone in the private chambers of a Lake Station City Court judge. Though he wasn't charged for the wiretapping, it factored into the sentencing, documents state.

Wiretapping
Before the couple was sentenced Wednesday, the prosecution read excerpts from grand jury transcripts from former Lake Station Police Chief Kevin Garber and the ConvergeOne employee who installed the phone system revealing new details about Soderquist's admitted wiretapping.

Garber testified in the transcripts that he walked in on Keith and Deborah Soderquist chatting about listening in on a city employee's phone call with the employee's mother and Deborah laughing and saying something along the lines of, "Don't they know we can listen in on them?"

The recording system was set up during the construction and move to the new Lake Station City Hall in late 2011, according to court documents. While it is fairly common to record police and fire department phone calls, Soderquist specifically asked the installers to record calls of all city hall employees without them knowing, the ConvergeOne employee testified in the transcripts, allowing Soderquist to access the recordings at any time on his computer.

When the system was initially set up, there was a function that notifies callers they are being recorded, the installer testified, but Soderquist requested that be disabled, making employees unaware of the recordings until the government began investigating earlier this year.

Medical ailments
The Soderquists' trial before the wiretapping revelations was accompanied by discussion of their medical ailments, and their sentencings were no exception.

The prosecution argued Wednesday that Soderquist should be taken into custody immediately after sentencing because Soderquist violated his bond in the case by continuing the wiretapping as his trial progressed, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson.

"I can't think of anything more egregious," Benson said, noting how "incredibly serious" wiretapping is.

But there is a medical issue that poses a problem with going straight into custody, defense attorney Scott King argued. After exhausting all non-surgical options, a doctor scheduled Keith Soderquist for neck surgery on Oct. 13, according to King.

"This isn't about getting his affairs in order," King said. "This is about getting his neck fixed so he doesn't spend the next three-plus years in agony."

Judge Rudy Lozano agreed Soderquist could have the surgery and time for recovery, but he must report to prison on Nov. 14. However, if the surgery gets canceled, he has to go to prison sooner, Lozano said.

Deborah Soderquist also highlighted her medical concerns Wednesday. Last week, Deborah Soderquist asked for her hearing to be pushed back in light of a CT scan scheduled the day after her sentencing. Her life has been filled with medical ailments, from her diagnosis of muscular dystrophy in her 20s, to her degenerative joint diseases to her more recent kidney cancer diagnosis, defense attorney Visvaldis Kupsis said.

Additionally, the defense asked she be able to serve her sentence in a halfway house to make it easier for her to receive cancer treatment.

But if the sentence was lenient, "I think the message to society is that if you're sick, you can do any crime you want," Judge Lozano said.

While Lozano allowed Deborah Soderquist to start her sentence on Nov. 14 like her husband, he decided she would have to serve her sentence in a prison equipped with a medical facility.

Apologies
In each of the defendant's sentencing hearings, Judge Lozano repeatedly expressed how "bothered" he was by the layers of crimes the two committed.

Kupsis described the case as "a story of two people in love who make a lot of mistakes." And the mistakes came when Soderquist "succumbed" to the "flashing lights" of casinos with his gambling addiction, King said.

"It doesn't excuse, but it does serve to explain," King said.

Family members of the Soderquists filled a bench in the courtroom Wednesday, and letters from family, friends and coworkers were filed in the couple's court docket leading up to the sentencing, saying their crimes were out of character of the positive impacts the couple made on Lake Station.

Keith and Deborah Soderquist each made brief statements to the court before they were sentenced.

"I would like to sincerely apologize to my wife, my two daughters, my family, my friends and to all those who had to endure this process. I am sorry," Keith Soderquist said.

His wife followed, saying, "I would just like to apologize to everyone that was affected by my actions."

But it's the people of Lake Station the couple should apologize to, Benson said.

"Maybe he should apologize to them because he lied to them and stole from them," Benson said.

"Lake Station is not a rich community, but a very proud community, and they have every right to expect that it will be run properly," Judge Lozano said, as he sentenced the couple.

Judge Lozano admitted that people make mistakes, and Keith Soderquist did try to help his wife and stepdaughters.

However, "I wish you had had the same respect for the people of Lake Station," Lozano said.












Judge denies sentencing delay for Soderquists
Jim Masters
Post-Tribune
September 22, 2016 - 7:35 PM
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-soderquists-denied-st-0923-20160922-story.html


A U.S. District Court judge denied a request by former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, to delay their Sept. 28 sentencing on federal corruption charges.

They sought the delay on the basis of Deborah Soderquist's medical condition, as she is currently undergoing cancer treatment and is scheduled for a CT scan the day after the hearing, according to court documents.

Last September, a jury found Soderquist and his wife guilty of using money from his campaign fund and Lake Station's food pantry on dozens of gambling trips to Michigan. Deborah Soderquist was found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, and three counts of filing a false tax return.

Deborah Soderquist is seeking an 18-month sentence to be served in a halfway house with the ability to leave as needed to seek medical treatment.

Keith Soderquist has agreed to a 42-month prison sentence.

He also pleaded guilty earlier this year to helping his stepdaughter, Miranda Brakely, hide more than $16,000 in court bond money she stole from the city by helping her get a $15,000 loan from a third party to cover up the theft. Brakely was sentenced last month to six months of home detention.











Ex-Lake Station mayor's wife seeks leniency in public corruption case
Jim Masters
Post-Tribune
September 21, 2016 - 7:30 PM
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-deb-soderquist-request-st-0922-20160921-story.html

The wife of former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist is petitioning a federal court to spare her prison time on public corruption charges, according to court records.

Last September, a jury found Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, 58, guilty of using money from his campaign fund and Lake Station's food pantry on dozens of gambling trips to Michigan. She was found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, and three counts of filing a false tax return.

A sentencing memorandum filed Wednesday cites a variety of health concerns afflicting Deborah Soderquist that cannot be properly cared for in a federal prison environment. The court filing states that she is undergoing kidney cancer treatment and suffers from muscular dystrophy, diabetes and high blood pressure. Thus, incarceration in a federal facility would be an unduly harsh punishment, the records claim.

As she has no prior criminal history, Deborah Soderquist should be sentenced in a range of 24 to 30 months in prison, her attorney, Vis Kupsis, states in the sentencing memorandum.

She is seeking an 18-month sentence to be served in a halfway house with the ability to leave as needed to seek medical treatment. She is also asking for 60 days to surrender, which would allow her to go directly to the designated facility and also complete some of her needed medical care. In addition, she is asking to not be held financially responsible for her crimes.

Keith Soderquist has agreed to a 42-month sentence, but a formal sentencing date for the couple has not been set. Deborah Soderquist also filed a motion Wednesday to delay her sentencing for 30 days while she seeks cancer treatment.

Keith Soderquist also pleaded guilty earlier this year to helping his stepdaughter Miranda Brakely hide more than $16,000 in court bond money she stole from the city by helping her get a $15,000 loan from a third party to cover up the theft. Brakely was sentenced last month to six months of home detention.










Rutter: Soderquist showed fondness for bugging citizens
David Rutter
Post-Tribune
September 13, 2016
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/opinion/ct-ptb-rutter-soderquist-st-0914-20160913-story.html


The last time Keith Soderquist won a general election in Lake Station, it was November 2011, and supporters still erroneously believed he could manage his mayoral life.

Mostly what he was managing was 425,000 tapped phone calls into and out of city offices. He was Nixon, the NSA and Matrix all wrapped together.

Between gambling trips to Michigan with stolen food pantry loot, diverted campaign cash plus his electronic hobbies, how did this guy have enough time to be mayor?

His phone tappings were trying to find who might report his family to the FBI for pilfering public money that fed his gambling monkey.

In the last successful campaign of his career, 945 Lake Stationistas — although you'd guess Soderquist, wife and stepdaughter cast three votes for him — said they liked Soderquist just fine as the re-elected mayor, and viewed him as an upstanding force for civic good.

You'd wonder what those 945 folks (minus three Soderquists) think now that Soderquist has been proven to be a ground-slinking skunk. He is such a lowrider skunk that he was forced to confess to even deeper skunkness to avoid vaster time in a federal prison.

We love democracy and hail its benefits because, as the Churchillian aphorism proclaims, it's the worst form of government except all the others. This does not prove democracy is a wonderful invention. It only means all other forms of human governance are abysmally awful. But you'd have a hard time making a logical case that any dictatorial strongman supreme monarch ruling Lake Station would have been more unpleasant and less democratic that Soderquist.

In the low-rent electoral zone of Lake County's municipal politics, Soderquist was the secretive, conspiracy-driven Richard Nixon.

Nixon did not directly steal money from the electorate; he only pilfered power, control and sealed his network by secretly recording private conversations of everyone who entered the Oval Office.

At least the NSA claims it's thwarting terrorists by intercepting everyone's messages.

The Matrix? The perfect invisible monitoring system for humans who think they are independent beings, but actually are being managed by higher powers, which in this case, seemed to be Soderquist.

Higher powers are not what they used to be.

As for Soderquist, the FBI says he secretly installed phone taps to and from city hall, and the city court. It appears he actually listened to 30 or so.

Soderquist confessed to this aural peeping to avoid being charged with electronic federal crimes. They would have gotten more years in federal lockups than his felonious pilfering will cost when he's sentenced on Sept. 28.

This was not the first time that Soderquist displayed an odd penchant for electronically managing citizens.

If residents there had paid closer attention, they might have smelled skunk juice in the air years ago.

As a city councilman and candidate for mayor in 2007, Soderquist led an abortive charge to ban citizens from recording city council meetings.

Apparently Soderquist had gotten word that such recordings were being edited for comedic effect to mock council members and their public statements. The videos then were shown on large-screen TVs at local bars amid the general guffaws and hoots of bar patrons.

The video-banning initiative ended when everyone figured out — after they were told — that the ban would violate Indiana's Open Door Law, which gives citizens the unequivocal right to record public meetings in any way they choose. And also, by the way, the idea was exquisitely, goofily undemocratic.

Soderquist told reporters he "didn't have a problem" with anyone videotaping meetings — very big of him — if they didn't later edit the results.

"I hope they'd use the best judgment and that nothing is being edited. You can alter the tape and hurt someone bad," he comically and prophetically said at the time.

"It is essential that council members and members of the public be able to speak freely and without the threat of being recorded and photographed," the hilarious Soderquist-inspired ordinance stated.

The odd tale of How the Gambling Monkey Ate the Mayor's Career also holds a footnote for Cynthia Robbins.

She was the arch-fiscal conservative who ran against Soderquist for mayor in 2011 and got 311 votes in a traditionally Democratic Party bastion. One of the votes was probably her.

But 60 percent of the adults in town didn't vote.

Soderquist benefited from another political aphorism. Democracy only works if you use it.











EDITORIAL: Soderquist deserves maximum possible sentence
The Times Editorial
September 06, 2016
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/opinion/editorial/editorial-soderquist-deserves-maximum-possible-sentence/article_23ea8b3f-78e2-5fe2-a6ed-fae472b52177.html


The details of a public corruption case don’t get much more repugnant than the case of disgraced former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his immediate family.

Soderquist and his wife were convicted of stealing from the town food pantry to finance gambling excursions, among other allegations.

And Soderquist also pleaded guilty in a separate case to helping cover up the embezzlement of funds from Lake Station City Court by his stepdaughter and former court clerk Miranda Brakley.

Soderquist had faced up to 30 months in federal prison at a future sentencing date in Hammond federal court.

But court documents show new information has added an additional year onto that sentencing range. Those circumstances should remind Region residents, elected officials and prosecutors of the need to hit perpetrators of public corruption with the full measure of the law.

The additional prison time Soderquist faces follows his admission in court documents that he recorded upwards of 425,000 city calls between October 2011 and August 2015 — and continued to do so even after being released on bond as his federal cases were pending.

City computer records show he listened to 14 calls involving potential government witnesses in his case. Those witnesses happened to be City Hall employees, according to federal court records.

Soderquist also listened to at least one call placed from the private chambers of the Lake Station City Court judge, court records allege.

This new evidence against Soderquist shows yet another egregious abuse of power — in this case a transgression committed when he already was facing other corruption charges.

Public officials prone to such behavior will never truly get it. Some have an entitlement complex so thick they actually believe they’re the victims when they’re caught.

Our justice system must continue sending a strong message that such behavior won’t be tolerated, and an extra year in prison may not be enough for Soderquist.

We also must ensure, as voters, that elected officials who serve as apologists for such behavior are shown the door.










Soderquist caught listening to calls at City Hall, faces more prison time
Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345  
Updated Sep 3, 2016  


HAMMOND — As federal officials prepared to sentence former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist on corruption charges, they said they discovered he had set up a system of recording and listening to telephone calls at City Hall.

Soderquist had recorded approximately 425,000 calls between Oct. 12, 2011, and Aug. 13, 2015, and continued the activity even after being released on bond as his federal corruption cases were pending, according to a sentencing agreement filed Wednesday in federal court.

Computer records show Soderquist listened to 14 calls involving potential government witnesses working at City Hall and at least one call placed from the private chambers of the Lake Station City Court judge, according to the court document.

Soderquist, who admitted to violating the federal wiretapping statute and doing so while on bond, now faces an enhanced term of 42 months when sentenced Sept. 28, according to the filing by the U.S. attorney’s office. The government, in return, will not file a new criminal case against him.

“The system was not installed for eavesdropping,” Soderquist’s defense attorney Scott King told The Times on Wednesday.

The phone system was installed a few years ago as part of the construction of new city offices, he said. The idea was to improve customer service while protecting city employees against false accusations.

Where Soderquist ran afoul of the law is that not all city employees were notified the calls were being recorded, and there was no message notifying those on the other end of the line, King said.

The sentencing agreement says Soderquist authorized the installation of the system and that it recorded all calls except those in the mayor’s office. In addition to recording calls that were accessible to Soderquist by computer, it allowed him to “surreptitiously eavesdrop on any City Hall call while the call was in progress.”

King said he has seen no evidence to back up government claims that Soderquist continued listening to calls after being released on bond April 17, 2014, in his corruption cases.

Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, were already scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 28 for improperly taking money from his re-election campaign fund and the city’s food pantry account to gamble at casinos.

U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano had postponed the sentencing from July after a joint motion was filed by the Soderquists’ attorneys and the U.S. attorney’s office seeking the delay because “additional investigative matters” had come to light.

Keith Soderquist had been facing up to 30 months behind bars, but the recommendation to the judge now will be 42 months as a result of the violation involving the phone system, according to the sentencing agreement.

The proposed agreement also calls on Soderquist to pay $3,520 to the city of Lake Station and $22,571 to the Internal Revenue Service.

The government agrees not to bring any charges against Deborah Soderquist stemming from the phone system.










Former Lake Station mayor admits to wiretapping employees
Associated Press
Published: September 2, 2016, 7:10 am
WISH-TV


LAKE STATION, Ind. (AP) — New court records show that the former mayor of the northwest Indiana city of Lake Station admitted to recording and listening to phone calls of City Hall employees over several years starting in 2011.

The Wednesday filings were part of Keith Soderquist’s presentencing agreement. He is to be sentenced Sept. 28 after pleading guilty and being convicted in two criminal cases.

The agreement reveals that the government learned about the wiretapping after a Lake Station City employee discovered a recording system device in March. An FBI investigation revealed that Soderquist had the system installed during the construction of city hall in 2011.

Records show that between Oct. 12, 2011, and Aug. 13 of last year, Soderquist recorded about 425,000 calls. Since Dec. 1, 2014, he had listened to about 30 of the recordings.

Soderquist admitted to violating the federal wiretapping statute in the agreement. In exchange, the government said it won’t file new charges, but the wiretapping will factor into the sentencing for his two previous cases.

“The system was not installed for eavesdropping,” Soderquist’s defense attorney Scott King said Wednesday. The phone system was installed to improve customer service while protecting city employees against false accusations, King said.

The former mayor pleaded guilty earlier this year to helping his stepdaughter hide more than $16,000 in court bond money she stole from the city by helping her get a loan to cover up the theft. And a jury in September found Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, guilty of using campaign and food pantry funds to gamble at casinos.

He potentially faces 42 months in prison when he’s sentenced on Sept. 28. The government also has recommended that Soderquist pay $3,520 in restitution to Lake Station and $22,571 to the Internal Revenue Service.










Former Lake Station mayor admits to wiretapping employees
Updated Sep 1, 2016  
LAKE STATION, Ind. (AP) — New court records show that the former mayor of the northwest Indiana city of Lake Station admitted to recording and listening to phone calls of City Hall employees over several years starting in 2011.

The Chicago Tribune  reports that the Wednesday filings were part of Keith Soderquist's presentencing agreement. He is to be sentenced Sept. 28 after pleading guilty and being convicted in two criminal cases.

The agreement reveals that the government learned about the wiretapping after a Lake Station City employee discovered a recording system device in March. An FBI investigation revealed that Soderquist had the system installed during the construction of city hall in 2011.

Records show that between Oct. 12, 2011, and Aug. 13 of last year, Soderquist recorded about 425,000 calls. Since Dec. 1, 2014, he had listened to about 30 of the recordings.











Former Lake Station mayor admits to wiretapping thousands of City Hall employee calls
September 01, 2016 - 5:00 AM
Becky Jacobs
Post-Tribune
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-soderquist-wire-tap-st-0902-20160831-story.html


Former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist has admitted to recording and listening to phone calls of City Hall employees over several years starting in 2011, according to federal court records filed Wednesday.

The development could factor into his sentencing later this month for misusing public funds and helping hide stolen money.

Soderquist pleaded guilty earlier this year to helping his stepdaughter, Miranda Brakely — who was sentenced last month to six months of home detention — hide more than $16,000 in court bond money she stole from the city by helping her get a $15,000 loan from a third party to cover up the theft.

And last September, a jury found Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, guilty of using money from his campaign fund and Lake Station's food pantry on dozens of gambling trips to Michigan.

He was set to be sentenced Sept. 28 in U.S. District Court in Hammond in these two cases when a presentencing agreement filed Wednesday in federal court revealed the City Hall wiretapping.

According to the agreement, the government learned about the wiretapping after a Lake Station City employee discovered a recording system device in March. The FBI investigated and found Soderquist had authorized an electronic recording system be installed on City Hall phones, including the police and fire departments and excluding the mayor's office, during the construction of Lake Station City Hall in late 2011, according to court records.

With the system, Soderquist could listen to the recordings at any time on a computer, and he could even listen to a call as it was happening, records state.

Between Oct. 12, 2011, and Aug. 13 of last year, Soderquist recorded about 425,000 calls to and from City Hall phones, and since Dec. 1, 2014, he had listened to about 30 of the recordings, records state. Fourteen of the calls he accessed were made or received "by potential government witnesses working at City Hall" and at least one call was made from a phone in the private chambers of a Lake Station City Court judge, records state.

However, the investigation wasn't able to determine how many calls he listened to before December 2014 because of a computer system crash that deleted the records before the investigation, and records didn't identify how many calls Soderquist may have listened to as they were happening.

Some of this happened while Soderquist was released on bond in his federal cases in April 2014, records state.

Soderquist admitted to the wiretapping in the agreement, and in exchange, the government won't file new charges. Instead, the wiretapping will factor into Soderquist's two previous cases he's already waiting to be sentenced in. He potentially faces 42 months in prison, according to the agreement.

The government also has recommended that Soderquist pay $3,520 in restitution to the city of Lake Station and $22,571 to the Internal Revenue Service. But ultimately, his sentencing is up to a federal judge at the end of September.











Soderquist caught listening to calls at City Hall, faces more prison time
Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345
Aug 31, 2016
NWI Times
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/crime-and-court/soderquist-caught-listening-to-calls-at-city-hall-faces-more/article_7e63f04e-f11b-5e78-b3ea-ed4d02cd74de.html


HAMMOND — As federal officials prepared to sentence former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist on corruption charges, they said they discovered he had set up a system of recording and listening to telephone calls at City Hall.

Soderquist had recorded approximately 425,000 calls between Oct. 12, 2011, and Aug. 13, 2015, and continued the activity even after being released on bond as his federal corruption cases were pending, according to a sentencing agreement filed Wednesday in federal court.

Computer records show Soderquist listened to 14 calls involving potential government witnesses working at City Hall and at least one call placed from the private chambers of the Lake Station City Court judge, according to the court document.

Soderquist, who admitted to violating the federal wiretapping statute and doing so while on bond, now faces an enhanced term of 42 months when sentenced Sept. 28, according to the filing by the U.S. attorney’s office. The government, in return, will not file a new criminal case against him.

“The system was not installed for eavesdropping,” Soderquist’s defense attorney Scott King told The Times on Wednesday.

The phone system was installed a few years ago as part of the construction of new city offices, he said. The idea was to improve customer service while protecting city employees against false accusations.

Where Soderquist ran afoul of the law is that not all city employees were notified the calls were being recorded, and there was no message notifying those on the other end of the line, King said.

The sentencing agreement says Soderquist authorized the installation of the system and that it recorded all calls except those in the mayor’s office. In addition to recording calls that were accessible to Soderquist by computer, it allowed him to “surreptitiously eavesdrop on any City Hall call while the call was in progress.”

King said he has seen no evidence to back up government claims that Soderquist continued listening to calls after being released on bond April 17, 2014, in his corruption cases.

Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, were already scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 28 for improperly taking money from his re-election campaign fund and the city’s food pantry account to gamble at casinos.

U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano had postponed the sentencing from July after a joint motion was filed by the Soderquists’ attorneys and the U.S. attorney’s office seeking the delay because “additional investigative matters” had come to light.

Keith Soderquist had been facing up to 30 months behind bars, but the recommendation to the judge now will be 42 months as a result of the violation involving the phone system, according to the sentencing agreement.

The proposed agreement also calls on Soderquist to pay $3,520 to the city of Lake Station and $22,571 to the Internal Revenue Service.

The government agrees not to bring any charges against Deborah Soderquist stemming from the phone system.










Miranda Brakley Was Sentenced to 2 Years Probation
United States Department Of Justice
July 07, 2016











No prison time for Brakley in Lake Station corruption case
Michelle L. Quinn
Post-Tribune
July 07, 2016

The stepdaughter of former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist will not see jail time for a federal theft charge.

Judge James Moody in U.S. District Court of Hammond on Thursday accepted a plea agreement for Miranda Brakley that will see Brakley serve six months of home detention and two years probation for agreeing to plead guilty to one count of theft from a program receiving federal funds. A second charge of her lying on her bankruptcy filing was dropped.

Additionally, Brakley must pay a fine of $664, the remaining 4 percent of the money she took.

Moody said he had fully considered "the crime of conviction" as well as letters sent by Brakley's family and friends in giving her the low end of sentencing. The plea agreement, he said, reflects the seriousness of the crime and affords deterrent of future crimes while taking into account her non-criminal history prior to 2012.

Looking gaunt and tired, Brakley, 36, read a short statement to the court before Moody accepted the plea agreement.

"Words cannot express how sorry I am for the humiliation and loss of my actions," Brakley said, fighting back tears. "I sincerely apologize to my family and friends for the embarrassment I've caused."

Brakley's attorney, Thomas Vanes, called the plea agreement "pretty straightforward," and said Brakley "just wants everything to be over."

"I'm confident she'll do what she needs to do to finally put this behind her," Vanes said after the hearing. "She has a host of medical issues that preceded any of this, so it's not like she's living a normal life at this stage."

Letters of support from family and friends for Brakley described the former court clerk as a kind woman brought up in the Catholic faith who thinks of others before herself. They lauded her getting a master's degree from Purdue.

Her father, Danny Brakley, said in his letter that Brakley now has a feeding tube and received serial balloon dilations from a surgery she had in Florida in December.

Deborah Soderquist, her mother, and Keith Soderquist, her stepfather, were not in the courtroom.

A second federal indictment accused Brakley, 33, a former city court clerk, of stealing at least $5,000 in bond money from city court from August 2011 to July 2012 and hiding $7,000 in income from her bankruptcy case, which she filed in August 2012. Former Mayor Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, were also charged with helping Brakley hide the thefts and violate federal banking law.

The Indiana State Board of Accounts reported Brakley never deposited about $16,000 of bond money into the court's bank account. She returned the money by December 2012, claiming she had mistakenly taken it with her other belongings when she was fired from her court clerk position and that it had sat in her vehicle ever since.

FBI agents raided City Hall in 2013, and federal attorneys filed charges against the Soderquists and Brakley in the spring of 2014.

Former Mayor Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, were convicted last fall of stealing money from the Lake Station Food Pantry — which receives money from city and state tax dollars as well as donations — and the mayor's campaign fund for their personal use, including dozens of trips to Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan, from 2010 to 2012.

In January, Keith Soderquist reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors admitting he helped Brakley hide that she stole more than $5,000 in court bond money from the city by helping her get a $15,000 loan from someone else. As part of the deal, the Soderquists dropped a motion for a new trial to overturn their September 2015 trial -- in which they argued U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano fell asleep at least twice during the two weeks it was heard -- as well as their appeal rights in that case.

In return, federal attorneys dropped all charges against Deborah Soderquist in the case involving Brakley, and they will recommend that Keith Soderquist serve his sentences in both cases concurrently. They will also recommend he serve the minimum of the recommended federal sentencing guideline range in the case involving Brakley -- which is up to five years for pleading guilty to one count of acting as an accessory after the fact -- and that he serve within the guideline range for the other case.

The guideline range will be determined at the sentencing hearing at 1 p.m. Sept. 28 in Moody's courtroom. Soderquist will also appear at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 28 in Judge Rudy Lozano's courtroom for sentencing on those charges.

The agreements for both Soderquists stipulate that all three defendants must abide by their agreement for the mayor and his wife to receive the benefits of their own agreements.
Michelle L. Quinn is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.











Brakley gets 6 months home detention
Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328  Updated 12 hrs ago  
July 07, 2016

HAMMOND — The stepdaughter of former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist avoided prison Thursday.

Miranda Brakley, 35, of Lake Station, received six months home detention followed by two years probation Thursday for embezzling Lake Station City Court funds.

“Words cannot express my humiliation and remorse,” she told U.S. District Court Judge James Moody.

She admitted Jan. 20 she stole more than $16,000 from the city court where she worked as a clerk between 2008 and 2012. Her position gave her access to bond money traffic offenders deposited with the court to get out of jail following their arrest.

Moody ordered her to pay $664 restitution, in addition to the $15,800 she had previously paid the City of Lake Station.

Her lawyer, Thomas Vanes of Merrillville, said home detention was the most appropriate punishment for Brakley who requires high maintenance medical care for a longstanding gastrointestinal disorder that has required recent surgery and for her to maintain a liquid-only diet.

He stated in a memorandum she is restricted to 64 ounces of liquid a day, she has to constantly monitor her blood sugar and blood pressure, go to twice weekly visited to her physicians for check-ups and treatment and has to receive the rest of her nutrients through monthly intravenous treatments at a hospital.

Her stepfather, former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist, awaits sentencing Sept. 28.

He pleaded guilty to attempting to cover up Brakley’s theft by borrowing from an unidentified friend enough money to replace the missing funds to bolster a cover-up story that Brakley had only misplaced, not stolen, the amount.

A jury last year also found the former mayor and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, guilty of improperly taking thousands of dollars from Keith Soderquist’s re-election campaign fund and the city’s food pantry account to gamble at nearby casinos.

The former mayor, who had served nearly eight years in office, came under state and federal scrutiny four years ago after former Lake Station City Judge Christopher A. Anderson discovered Brakley stole money that those arrested in Lake Station posted to get out of jail.

Anderson left the bench last year, ran for Lake Station mayor and defeated Soderquist and a Republican opponent.










Sentencing for Soderquist, wife reset for September
Sarah Reese sarah.reese@nwi.com, (219) 933-3351  
Jun 24, 2016 


HAMMOND — Former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, will be sentenced Sept. 28 for improperly taking money from his re-election campaign fund and the city’s food pantry account to gamble at casinos.

U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano on Friday granted a joint motion filed by the Soderquists’ attorneys and the U.S. attorney’s office to postpone the couple’s sentencing for 60 days because “additional investigative matters” had come to light.

The sentencing previously had been set for July 13.

A joint motion to delay a second sentencing hearing July 13 for Soderquist and his stepdaughter Miranda Brakley because of “additional investigative matters” remains pending before Senior Judge James Moody.

Soderquist and Brakley admitted in a change of plea hearing in January that she embezzled about $16,000 from Lake Station City Court while she was employed there as a clerk and he tried to cover it up.

In a separate case, a jury found the former mayor and his wife guilty Sept. 11 of improperly using his campaign funds and the city’s food pantry account to gamble.

Officials said this month a special prosecutor is taking over a state police investigation into the suspected concealment of traffic convictions in Lake Station City Court.

LaPorte County Prosecutor John M. Espar accepted a request by state police to help determine whether a number of drunken driving and other traffic cases were improperly handled between 2008 and 2012, according to the Lake County prosecutor’s office.

Brakley was employed in the City Court during that time period. Her attorney, Thomas Vanes, has said suspicion of his client is unwarranted.











Delay sought in Soderquist public corruption case
Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345  
Jun 22, 2016 

HAMMOND — A 60-day delay has been requested in the federal sentencing of former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, who were found guilty Sept. 11 of improperly taking thousands of dollars from Keith Soderquist’s re-election campaign fund and the city’s food pantry account to gamble at nearby casinos.

The request, which is sought by attorneys for the government and the Soderquists, said “additional investigative matters” had come to their attention that could impact the sentencing.

The additional 60 days are needed to review the new information and prepare for sentencing, according to Wednesday’s request.

Sentencing currently is scheduled for July 13.

Keith Soderquist and stepdaughter Miranda Brakley also have admitted in federal court she embezzled City Court funds and he tried to cover it up.










Special prosecutor now at the wheel of DUI probe
Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328
Jun 16, 2016
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/crime-and-court/special-prosecutor-now-at-the-wheel-of-dui-probe/article_663f41a6-0f9c-5028-94c7-afae14593067.html


CROWN POINT — A special prosecutor is taking over a state police investigation into the suspected concealment of traffic convictions in Lake Station City Court.

LaPorte County Prosecutor John M. Espar has accepted a request by state police to help determine whether a number of drunken driving and other traffic cases were improperly handled between 2008 and 2012, according to the Lake County prosecutor’s office.

Indiana State Police 1st Sgt. Al Williamson said this is an automatic precaution in cases of potential public corruption to avoid an appearance of a conflict of interest.

“A lot of times when we investigate these political type of cases, we ask for a special prosecutor of a different county for transparency reasons,” Williamson said. “We do this from the start so in case we have a question, we work right with that prosecutor.”

Lake Prosecutor Bernard Carter, who brought state police into the probe last month, agreed with them and made the official request for an outside prosecutor. Senior Lake Criminal Court Judge Salvador Vasquez ordered Espar’s appointment last week.

Williamson said of the investigation, “It is still in the infancy stages. We are having preliminary interviews. There is a lot of documentation to gather. We are working with the BMV and other branches to look at this on a case-by-case basis.”

The county prosecutes hundreds of local traffic offenders each year. State law requires local courts to submit traffic convictions to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles to enforce any court-ordered driving restrictions and for inclusion in drivers’ permanent driving histories.

Carter first requested the investigation last month after looking into why the City Court failed to submit to the BMV a 2011 reckless driving conviction for Randolph L. “Randy” Palmateer, 37, business manager for the Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council.

He said his office discovered the Lake Station City Court hadn’t submitted other convictions and notices of driving suspensions downstate.

Mayor Christopher Anderson, who was Lake Station city judge at the time, said earlier that Miranda Brakley was clerk of the city’s court from 2008 to 2012 and responsible for transmitting convictions and driving restrictions to the BMV.

Carter said last month it appeared she intentionally refused to do so. Thomas Vanes, a Merrillville attorney representing Brakley, said their suspicion of his client is unwarranted.

He said Anderson and Brakley and former Mayor Keith Soderquist, Brakley’s stepfather, were involved in a feud. The Soderquist family had complained of improprieties in Anderson’s court to the prosecutor and federal authorities four years ago, but authorities showed no interest at that time.

Anderson fired Brakley and triggered a state audit that resulted in her guilty plea in January to embezzling about $16,000 from Lake Station City Court.

Brakley is awaiting sentencing July 7 for the theft, and Keith Soderquist awaits sentencing July 13 for pleading guilty to trying to cover up the theft.

Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, also are scheduled to be sentenced July 13 for illegally using his campaign and the city’s food pantry money to gamble at area casinos.









Sheriff wants no floor fight with union boss Palmateer
Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328  
Jun 15, 2016 

Lake County's top Democrat won't be among the party faithful competing for a trip to next month's national convention in Philadelphia.

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, who has been county Democratic chairman for two years, said this week he has withdrawn his delegate bid after learning that building and trades union official Randolph L. “Randy” Palmateer was among several competing for the same delegate spots.

Local Democrats are preparing to travel this weekend to Indianapolis to attend their party's state convention. State delegates will select the national convention delegates.

Buncich complains it had been the custom for the Lake County Democratic chairman to be automatically invited to the national convention "going back five county chairmen, but I was not selected as party leader."

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., a former county chairman, and Gary Mayor Karen Freeman Wilson were selected.

"There are six at-large spots statewide the Hillary Clinton campaign had, and I was honored to be one of the six chosen," McDermott said.

McDermott said delegate seats are in short supply this time for party leaders who, like him, were all in the Clinton camp. But presidential candidate Bernie Sanders defeated Clinton statewide May 3, so a majority of the Indiana delegation will be Sanders loyalists.

That left Buncich the choice of competing for other delegate seats allocated to the 1st Congressional District, which includes Lake, Porter and eastern LaPorte counties.

"They said I would have to run against six other individuals, one of them being Randy Palmateer," Buncich said.

"I found that to be very distasteful. It is an embarrassment to have that individual represent our Democratic Party, especially at a national level."

Palmateer, business manager of the 25,000-member Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council, has been under fire since his arrest in late March by Hammond police at a sobriety checkpoint.

Palmateer said Buncich's move is "sour grapes" over the building trades' endorsement of Marissa McDermott for Lake Circuit Court judge. Buncich had backed incumbent Judge George Paras, who lost in an upset in the May 3 primary.

Palmateer said he is running because no one else in the race represented labor, and he is excited to be trying to represent Clinton's campaign.

Drew Anderson, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party, declined to name other local candidates for the national convention.

McDermott said he has learned they include: East Chicago's state Sen. Lonnie Randolph, chairman of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus; House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, of Michigan City; and Dr. Dr. Jorge A. Benavente, a Munster optometrist.

McDermott said any voter can run as a national delegate. "But John is the chairman, bringing a delegation of Democrats to Indianapolis. If John had put effort into it, he would have easily won. Now that John's out, it's probably made Randy's chances of winning better," McDermott said.

Benavente said he decided to run as a national delegate to support Clinton's election this fall. He said it also is a gesture of support for East Chicago-born U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who has been under attack by Republican presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

Curiel presides over a lawsuit against Trump University. Trump has attacked Curiel as hostile to him because of Curiel's "Mexican heritage." Curiel's parents were born in Mexico.










Lake union leader keeps RDA seat
Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328  
June 15, 2016 


CROWN POINT — A split Lake County Board of Commissioners kept faith with troubled labor boss Randy Palmateer.

In the face of criticism over Palmateer's drunken driving arrest earlier this spring, the three-member county executive board reappointed him as their representative on the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, which oversees millions of dollars in economic development projects.

Commissioners Kyle Allen, D-Gary, and Mike Repay, D-Hammond, voted for Palmateer. Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, voted against reappointment.

It comes a month after the Democratic majority on the Lake County Council also gave their support to Palmateer, business manager of the 25,000-member Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council, an AFL-CIO affiliate, which represents more than 38 union trade locals in Lake, Porter, Newton and Jasper counties.

Palmateer has been under fire since Hammond police stopped him in late March at a sobriety checkpoint and arrested him despite his attempt to contact Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. Palmateer had a prior drunken driving arrest in 2011 in Crown Point.

In both cases, the prosecutor's office initially filed charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated against him and later reduced them to reckless driving convictions.

Palmateer, who wasn't present at the meeting, declined to comment when reached after the meeting.

Repay said Palmateer's service to county government on the RDA "has been as good as we can ask for. Despite his notorious legal troubles, those things haven't affected his ability to serve."

A Times review of the RDA board meetings Palmateer attended indicated he had been absent six out of 14 meetings. Repay said Palmateer told him RDA meetings once conflicted with his union meetings, but he has attended all RDA meetings since the meeting schedule changed.

Mark Leyva, who is challenging Repay in the general election this fall, said, "When you have people on these boards, they represent the county. When you have problems like Mr. Palmateer, what does that say to the public? Is this the best they can do?"

Allen said he made a promise to Palmateer to keep him on the RDA before the alleged drunken driving controversy erupted. "He made a mistake. I'll give anybody one chance," Allen said.

Allen said his vote wasn't swayed by any union financial support Palmateer can wield.

"I haven't received any contributions from the labor unions. I have only received one donation from Mr. Palmateer for $100 when I was on Gary City Council. Since I've been on the board of commissioners (four months) I haven't had a fundraiser and receive no financial support from the unions or Mr. Palmateer. I'm not doing this with blinders on," Allen said.

Scheub said voting against Palmateer, who he considers a friend, was difficult. "I feel sorry for his family. They've gone through hell on this. I just hope he understands what I did and we move forward," Scheub said.

"I got a lot of telephone calls. They thought he should go back and work on the building trades and make sure labor was tougher and stronger and back off on all this other involvement, get everything straightened out and go forward. I vote according to my district's wishes.

"I support labor. People say I do everything the unions want me to do. That's not true," Scheub said, recounting his opposition to the Illiana Expressway, the Singleton Quarry and other projects that would generate union jobs.

"This is one situation where I told them what I had to do. They weren't offended by it. Randy wasn't offended by it. They said do what you have to do," he said.

Schererville Town Councilman Jerry Tippy, who is challenging Scheub this fall, said afterward, "I found it interesting that Scheub did not try to convince his fellow commissioners to join him in voting against the appointment. It was almost as though he wanted them to vote in favor."

Lake officials first appointed Palmateer to the RDA in 2013.











Soderquist to be sentenced July 13
June 08, 2016
Chicago Post Tribune
Teresa Auch SchultzContact Reporter


Former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist will find out his fate from both of his criminal cases on the same day.

According to records with the U.S. District Court in Hammond, Soderquist will be sentenced for his role in his stepdaughter's theft of city funds on July 13, the same day he will also be sentenced for using money from his campaign fund and the city's food bank to gamble with.

The sentencings will take place under different judges.

A federal jury convicted Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, in September of using the money to pay for gambling trips to Michigan.

The couple were then set to go to a second trial on charges of helping Miranda Brakley hide that she stole money from the city when she worked there as a court clerk. However, all three reached a deal with federal attorneys earlier this year that saw the former mayor and Brakley plead guilty. Charges against Deborah Soderquist in that case were dropped in return.

Brakley's sentencing has also now been scheduled for July 7, according to court records.











Rich James: The return of the infamous 'bar tab'
June 02, 2016
Howey Politics

MERRILLVILLE – It would appear it is one of those “déjà vu all over again” kind of things. Just like the loquacious Yogi Berra used to talk about in television commercials.
    
Nevertheless, the handling of the disposition of records involving drunken driving cases in Lake County, at least in one of the courts, is about to come under the microscope. Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter has asked the state police to investigation the handling of drunken driving cases in Lake Station City Court. There are allegations that documentation from drunken driving convictions aren’t being sent to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. That documentation can result in the suspension of driving privileges and higher insurance rates.
    
The allegation from Mayor Christopher Anderson, who was city judge when the alleged wrongdoing occurred, was that court clerk Miranda Brakley was responsible for transmitting the DUI conviction information to the state but never did. Brakley, the step-daughter of former Mayor Keith Soderquist, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to embezzling $16,000 from the city court. Soderquist pleaded guilty to trying to cover up the theft by trying to replace the money.
    
Carter has said he is concerned the reporting failures could involve hundreds of drivers.
    
Noted defense attorney Thomas Vanes, who represents Brakley, said his client is a scapegoat and that all courts should be checked. It was some 30 years ago that the Lake County court system hit a low when the “operation bar tab” probe into the fixing of drunken driving tickets was in full swing. Hundreds of drunken driving records were involved in that probe as state police investigators found that scores of conviction records never were sent to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
    
In most cases, it cost the driver $1,500 to have his records disappear. While some of the officials involved didn’t receive any kickbacks, they were convicted of helping cover up the wrongdoing. Two small claims court judges, the county clerk, a deputy prosecutor, bailiffs and lawyers were convicted and went to jail. Operation bar tab played out for several years in U.S. District Court in Hammond.
    
Unfortunately for Lake County’s reputation, some appear to be choosing to bring back the same scheme that left the county in disgrace many years ago. 

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. He is a columnist for The Times of Northwest Indiana.










Indiana State Police to investigate missing court records
Associated Press
June 1, 2016, 3:39 pm
WISH TV 8
http://wishtv.com/2016/06/01/indiana-state-police-to-investigate-missing-court-records/


CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) — Indiana State Police plans to investigate why Lake Station City Court failed to report license restrictions to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, according to an official with the agency.

Indiana State Police First Sgt. Al Williamson said Monday that he has assigned two detectives to investigate drunken driving cases that were improperly handled between 2008 and 2012.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard A. Carter requested the investigation last month after discovering a number of cases heard in Lake Station City Court weren’t submitted for inclusion in the permanent driving histories of defendants.

In one of the cases, a 2011 reckless driving conviction wasn’t submitted for Randolph L. “Randy” Palmateer, 37, business manager for the Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council. Carter said his office would’ve more vigorously prosecuted Palmateer’s arrest earlier this year at a Hammond sobriety checkpoint if it had known it wasn’t his first offense.

Carter said earlier this week that he’s concerned the reporting failure could involve hundreds of drivers who should’ve had their driving privileges suspended, the (Munster) Times reported.

State law requires courts to mail convictions for serious moving violations, including drunken driving, to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, which assesses points for such convictions that remain on a person’s driving record for two years and can result in license suspensions and higher insurance rates.

Thirty years ago, several officials involved in Lake County Court in Crown Point, including two judges and a prosecutor, were convicted of making court records disappear so people convicted of drunken driving wouldn’t receive points on their driving records.











State police look into missing court records
Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328  
May 31, 2016 


CROWN POINT — State police have begun looking into why the Lake Station City Court failed to report license restrictions to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Indiana State Police First Sgt. Al Williamson said Monday he has assigned Indiana State Police Detectives Chris Campione and John Holman to investigate drunken driving cases that were improperly handled between 2008 and 2012.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard A. Carter requested the investigation last month after discovering the convictions and notices of suspension of a number of cases heard in Lake Station City Court weren't submitted downstate for inclusion in the permanent driving histories of the defendants.

Carter said his office uncovered the Lake Station City Court problem last month during an investigation into why the City Court failed to submit to the BMV a 2011 reckless driving conviction for Randolph L. “Randy” Palmateer, 37, business manager for the Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council.

Carter said his office would have more vigorously prosecuted Palmateer's arrest at a Hammond sobriety checkpoint earlier this year if it had known it wasn't his first offense. Carter said the failure to submit convictions may involve hundreds of cases.

Carter and Mayor Christopher Anderson, who was Lake Station city judge at the time, said earlier that Miranda Brakley, clerk of that city's court from 2008 to 2012 and a stepdaughter of former Mayor Keith Soderquist, was responsible for transmitting convictions and driving restrictions to the BMV over that period and failed to do so.

Brakley already is awaiting sentencing for a guilty plea in January to embezzling about $16,000 from the Lake Station City Court. Soderquist, the former mayor and Brakley's stepfather, has pleaded guilty to trying to cover up the theft by trying to replace the missing money with other funds.

Thomas Vanes, a Merrillville attorney representing Brakley, said Monday his client, whose family has been feuding with Anderson, is being made a scapegoat without any proof. He said, "Why don't they look at all the courts? Why just Lake Station?"

Vanes said former Mayor Soderquist complained to Carter's staff four years ago about how drunken driving plea bargains were being handled in Lake Station City Court, including Palmateer's. Carter said Soderquist complained only about Anderson's performance as a judge, not about missing conviction records.

Vanes said Brakley spoke to the U.S. Attorneys office and the FBI about missing records, but said federal authorities only seemed interested in pursuing allegations against Soderquist and her.

Carter said earlier this week he is concerned the reporting failure could involve hundreds of drivers who should have had their driving privileges suspended.

State law requires courts to mail convictions for serious moving violations to the BMV, which assesses points for such convictions that remain on an individual’s driving record for two years and can result in license suspensions and higher insurance rates for the drivers.

The investigation is an echo of a federal probe, called Operation Bar Tab, which focused 30 years ago on allegations of fixing drunken driving tickets in Lake County Court in Crown Point.

Two county judges, a county clerk and a deputy prosecutor, bailiffs and lawyers were among several convicted of making court records disappear, so drunken drivers wouldn't receive points on their driving records.

More than political embarrassment is emerging from the alleged drunken driving arrests — and subsequent plea deals — involving politically connected Region union official, Randolph "Randy" Palmateer.

The web became more tangled earlier this month when local prosecutors and court officials discovered potentially hundreds of cases out of Lake Station City Court in which driving infractions weren't reported to the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles, as is required by law.

Now Region officials are calling on the Indiana State Police to investigate.

The eyes of outside agencies are desperately needed to objectively sort through this mess, and the state police and federal investigators should dive in to the fray.

The Lake Station discovery followed a finding that Palmateer's 2011 drunken driving case — which was subsequently pleaded down to the lesser charge of reckless driving — never was reported to the state BMV as is required by law.

Palmateer received a nearly identical plea deal following a March drunken driving arrest, later pleaded down to reckless driving in Hammond City Court.

Now Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter tells us as many as 1,000 driving infractions possibly weren't reported from Lake Station court to the BMV between 2008 and 2012.

The Lake Station court clerk at the time, Miranda Brakley, already awaits sentencing on a federal theft charge for illegal actions she took when she held the office.

Now some local authorities, including Carter, are pointing fingers at Brakley.

Her attorney, Tom Vanes, told us she’s a convenient scapegoat for errors that could have been made by other clerk personnel.

Unraveling what really happened here is going to require the detail-oriented eyes of an unbiased outside agency.

Were special deals being cut to some clients in which records of driving fractions weren't sent to the BMV, and thus never went on those offenders' driving records?

How much did the clerks, judge, prosecutors, defense attorneys or other court personnel know about this?

In Palmateer's 2011 case, the charges initially were filed in Crown Point City Court. They were later moved by request of his defense attorney to Lake Station City Court.

If a change of venue truly was needed, why was the case moved to Lake Station and not the Lake County courts?

There are too many questions — and far too many potential conflicts at play — for this probe to be handled in house.

To state and federal authorities: Lake County taxpayers require your help.










Prosecutor wants state police to join Lake Station DUI probe
Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328
May 19, 2016
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/crime-and-court/prosecutor-wants-state-police-to-join-lake-station-dui-probe/article_68ccfd41-a977-552b-b4ac-feb136259df2.html

CROWN POINT — The Lake County prosecutor is asking state police to investigate why a local court failed to report license restrictions to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

"I've asked them to investigate the Lake Station City Court in reference to the handling of the BMV suspensions," Prosecutor Bernard A. Carter said Wednesday.

"The state police have the option of going to the U.S. Attorney's office and other federal authorities as well as our office," he said.

Indiana State Police Master Trooper Aaron Correll, commander of the Lowell post, referred all inquiries to First Sgt. Al Williamson, who is responsible for criminal investigations and was unavailable Wednesday.

"I welcome the investigation," Lake Station Mayor Christopher Anderson said Wednesday.

He said the results of such an investigation would help the city's new initiative to reduce the risk of fraud through internal controls that would divide up key duties, such handing driver's restrictions, so that no one individual controls all aspects of the transaction.

Carter said earlier this week he is concerned the reporting failure could involve hundreds of drivers who should have had their driving privileges suspended.

State law requires courts to mail convictions for serious moving violations to the BMV, which assesses points for such convictions that remain on an individual’s driving record for two years and can result in license suspensions and higher insurance rates for the drivers.

Carter and Anderson said earlier this week Miranda Brakley, who was clerk of that city's court from 2008 to 2012 and a stepdaughter of former Mayor Keith Soderquist, was responsible for transmitting convictions and driving restrictions to the BMV over that four year period.

Brakley already is awaiting sentencing for a guilty plea in January to embezzling about $16,000 from the Lake Station City Court. Keith Soderquist, the former mayor and Brakley's stepfather, has pleaded guilty to trying to cover up the theft by trying to replace the missing money with other funds.

Thomas Vanes, Brakley's attorney, said Wednesday any investigation should look beyond his client, who he said wasn't solely responsible for sending court records to the BMV.

Vanes said several clerks worked in the court, including Lake Station City Councilman Neil Anderson, a brother of the mayor.

Neil Anderson said Wednesday he worked for the court for two years, Brakley was his supervisor and she handled the court records sent to the BMV.

Carter said his office uncovered the Lake Station City Court problem earlier this month during an investigation into why the City Court failed to submit to the BMV a 2011 reckless driving conviction for Randolph L. “Randy” Palmateer, 37, business manager for the Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council.

Vanes said former mayor Soderquist complained to Carter's staff four years ago about how drunken driving plea bargains were being handled in Lake Station City Court, including Palmateer's.

"So none of this should be news to Mr. Carter," Vanes said.










Prosecutor calls for investigation of former court clerk
Teresa Auch SchultzContact Reporter
Post-Tribune
May 18, 2016
http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:mjVfrm5rthsJ:www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-lake-station-bmv-st-0519-20160518-story.html+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

The stepdaughter of former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist is facing a new criminal investigation connected to whether she failed to perform her duties as a court clerk for the city.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter Jr. said Wednesday that he asked the Indiana State Police to investigate whether Miranda Brakley violated state law by failing to notify the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles of people convicted of operating while under the influence.

Brakley pleaded guilty earlier this year to stealing bond money from the city court and is waiting to be sentenced in federal court. Soderquist pleaded guilty to helping her hide the crime.

Miranda Brakley's attorney, Thomas Vanes, strongly denied any allegations against his client, however, saying Carter is trying to hide his own office's mistakes.

"The only thing this is going to do is distract from Bernie's office's screw-up," Vanes said.

The issue arose after it came out that Randy Palmateer, a local union official who sits on several public boards including the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving after an operating while intoxicated arrest earlier this year.

Carter's office had already given Palmateer a plea deal in a similar situation in 2011 and said that normally for a second case a defendant would not be able to plead down. However, Carter said a week ago that Palmateer's prior record didn't show up in a BMV database, and the deputy prosecutor handling the case thought Palmateer was a first-time offender.

Carter's office started an investigation with the Lake Station Court, where Palmateer's first conviction took place, and sampled 12 random OWI files. Carter said none of them had been reported to the BMV.

"We found that the charges with Randy Palmateer and his lack of BMV record reporting was not isolated," Carter said.

Carter said his office has pinpointed Brakley as the likely culprit, saying that interviews with other people showed she was the one primarily responsible for reporting OWIs to the BMV.

"This is not an incompetence issue," he said. "It's willful, intentional."

Carter said the matter could become a official misconduct issue because anyone who works for a public office and whose duties include filing records with the state has a legal obligation to do so.

Along with asking the state police to investigate, Carter has asked Lake Station officials to go through all OWI records from about 2008 to 2012, when Brakley worked there, to determine the extent of the issue, he said.

Lake Station Mayor Christopher Anderson, who served as city judge during that time, said the city has already started an investigation and that it could take several weeks to go through all the applicable files, which he estimated at around 500.

Vanes defended his client, saying that she was not the only one responsible for submitting records to the BMV and that for at least some time, court clerks thought that a Lake County court program did it automatically. Brakley also previously brought the 2011 Palmateer conviction to Carter's attention, Vanes said, so he questioned why she would then purposely not report it to the BMV.

Vanes argued that Carter's office erred in failing to find Palmateer's prior conviction, noting they would have seen the prior conviction if they had looked at local court records.

"They just didn't check or didn't want to check," Vanes said.

Vanes also pointed the finger at Anderson, saying that as he served as judge at the time, he is ultimately responsible for any error.

Anderson said that it's possible he bears some responsibility for what happened but noted that the city judge is a part-time position whose primary duties are to oversee the court calls. Once the judge accepts a plea deal, the court clerks handle the case from there, he said.

Anderson said the city would likely look to whether changes need to be made to create more checks and balances but noted that it would be impossible to have every OWI record double-checked.

"We'll try to use this best we can as a learning experience and make sure it doesn't happen again," he said.

Brakley's plea deal with federal attorneys require her to not commit any other criminal acts, and Soderquist's plea deal relies on Brakley following her plea deal. Vanes said he was not worried about Carter's allegations affecting the federal case.

"No one's going to buy Bernie's nonsense here," Vanes said.

Scott King, who is representing Soderquist, could not be reached for comment. Ryan Holmes, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Hammond, declined to comment on the case.

Carter said he did not know how long a police investigation into the issue would take but said that he would accept whatever their recommendations were.










Police video shows union official dropping Hammond mayor's name

Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328
May 17, 2016
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/police-video-shows-union-official-dropping-hammond-mayor-s-name/article_6a67d78b-0591-5514-8109-cd132ee0a5a9.html


HAMMOND — A Lake County union leader dropped Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.'s name as he was trying to avoid arrest this spring on suspicion of drunken driving.

McDermott's office, responding to a request from The Times Media Co., released a police video showing Randolph "Randy" Palmateer mentioning the mayor, first casually and later pleading with officers, "I want my phone so I can call Tom McDermott. I don't want this sh--. Don't send me to the county."

McDermott said Tuesday, "I can't control what people say when they are being arrested. Randy is my friend, to this day. I don't think Randy should have done that, personally, but he did. I want to point out that the right thing happened at the end of the day, despite the fact that my name was dropped."

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said Tuesday that he is sure Palmateer didn't want to go the county jail, "because he wouldn't get any special favors and would have to go through the same process as everybody else, especially with it being his second offense."

Police arrested Palmateer, business manager for the Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council, and the prosecutor's office charged him with operating his union-provided vehicle while intoxicated.

He pleaded guilty May 2 to the lesser violation of reckless driving, his second such offense in five years.

The nearly 10-minute video is shot from the body camera of a police officer at a sobriety checkpoint 9:25 p.m. March 25 in the 7200 block of Kennedy Avenue.

The officer states, "You smell like you've had alcohol. There is alcohol in your car." Palmateer responds, "I had one beer. We just left the game. Came back. I'm meeting Tom McDermott at his house."

The officer responded, "Great. Tom knows we are having a DUI checkpoint."

Palmateer said, "I know. He told me that, too."

When the officers laughed, Palmateer said, "I swear. Jesus Christ. You can look at my text messages."

McDermott said Tuesday he was at a Boyz II Men concert that night when he heard from his police chief of Palmateer's arrest.

Officer T. Laurinec reports Palmateer failed two out of three field sobriety tests. When informed he was "borderline" and would be taken to the police station, he replied, "I'd rather you not do that. I'd rather just leave and go back toward Tom's house."

After being put in handcuffs, he agreed to take a portable roadside breath test, which measured his blood-alcohol concentration at 0.155, almost twice the legal limit of 0.08.

McDermott said Tuesday, "It was horrible timing. Little did I know when Randy got pulled over I would be sucked into the drama."

He said Palmateer was preparing a union endorsement of Marissa McDermott, the mayor's wife, at a crucial moment in her campaign for Lake Circuit Court judge. She won the May 3 Democratic primary.

"Randy was helping us, and the building and trades endorsement was huge for us," McDermott said. "That was pending when this all went down and we were afraid that it would affect the race."











Davich: Lake Station mayor looks to brighter future, not shady past
May 13, 2016
Chicago Tribune
https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/opinion/ct-ptb-davich-lake-station-new-image-st-0516-20160513-story.html

Lake Station Mayor Chris Anderson and David Schmelzer, vice president of the Lake Station Chamber of Commerce, had no easy answers for the same question they've been asking themselves for months.

What, I asked, can be done to improve the city's public image after years of negative publicity revolving around the previous mayoral administration?

"Every time we seem to remove ourselves from it, something pops back up in the newspapers," said Anderson, who took office Jan. 1.

The former city judge is referring to the highly publicized debacle of disgraced former mayor Keith Soderquist, who was removed from office last September when a U.S. District Court jury found him and his wife, Deborah, guilty of public corruption charges. Prosecutors alleged they improperly using campaign funds and the city's food pantry money and a jury in Hammond agreed.

"It's been a public relations nightmare," Schmelzer admitted.

Soderquist's sentencing hearing remains on the court docket in July, which doesn't help city officials' attempt to move forward with a new era and a fresh beginning. There will be at least one more wave of negative publicity against the city when Soderquist is sentenced.

In the meantime, Anderson is doing his best to learn the mayoral ropes. As he tied up loose ends in his personal life and law practice after the general election, interim mayor Dewey Lemley (the city's former mayor) held things together well, Anderson agreed.

One of his first campaign promises has already taken root. He insists on total transparency with city government actions. This includes joining the area's Shared Ethics Advisory Commission, which may appear more symbolic than anything but it's an important, tangible step for this long-dysfunctional city.

"In the short months since Chris has taken over, we've seen 1,000 percent more cooperation and interest in chamber-related functions. He's taken a position as honorary board of director and he has attended our meetings to get involved with our activities," said Schmelzer, 57, who, like Anderson, was born and raised in the city.

I sat down with Anderson and Schmelzer to see what's being done to repair frayed or broken relationships within the city. And what can be done to re-brand the city to Northwest Indiana and beyond.

Both men echoed Lake Station's official website mantra: "The city is focusing on its positives and building the future."

Over the past few years, Lake Station has been as divided and contentious as any other city in Northwest Indiana.

Some residents can't even agree on the city's name, which has early origins as a train stop station in Lake County – Lake Station – until it was renamed East Gary in 1908, to lure U.S. Steel mill executives. In 1977, the city was renamed again Lake Station.

Think about it. How many residents in other local cities have similar debates about the community's very name, let alone other more serious challenges facing them? This is what Anderson, Schmelzer and other city leaders are up against.

"At this point in my term, I'm more risk-adverse about making any big decisions," said Anderson, a soft-spoken man with a serious attitude. "I'm still trying to figure out the ins and outs of my new office."

He immediately instituted an open door policy with residents who have questions or complaints. They've embraced it to the point of a 25-page binder that Anderson has compiled with their concerns.

"I've heard it all," said Anderson, an attorney who focused on family law, not municipal law or political campaigning.

This was my first meeting with Anderson, a married father of four who left a good impression on me. He was candid, open to tough questions, and fully understood that he's just getting started.

He and Soderquist go back several years, when they campaigned together as Anderson first ran for city judge and Soderquist for mayor. They started as political pals but the relationship started eroding after Soderquist took office and didn't live up to his campaign promises.

I could elaborate more but Lake Station residents don't need to hear the sordid details again.

"We know our city has black eyes. We're trying to get off the mat," Schmelzer said.

"From the businesses we've talked to, they are noting a more open-door approach that the new mayoral administration is having," he said. "And the additional possibilities of economic growth in attracting new businesses, and better supporting the existing business community."

The city's population of roughly 14,000, according to the latest U.S. Census figures, is a close-knit community that knows most everybody's business, whether it's good, bad or petty.

Since Anderson began his term as mayor, I've heard only good things from typically critical residents about the city's changes for the better. It all starts with handshakes, renewing relationships and making introductions.

"Our board of directors is very excited to have Chris involved so, from our perspective, we are looking forward to more city-chamber business cooperation and partnerships," Schmelzer said.

Anderson's biggest challenge beyond a poor public image is a depleted city budget.

There has been talk of the city selling its water treatment facility – its biggest asset, Anderson said – to bring in new revenue.

"We're currently exploring this as an option," said Anderson, who's been researching the issue for several weeks.

On my latest radio show, Schmelzer said another challenge is that the 8-square-mile city is landlocked, with no large steel mills or major hospitals, for example, to bolster assessed valuation and tax revenue.

"There's a new feeling of optimism here these days," Schmelzer said.

The residents I spoke with agreed, noting that the city needs to amplify its best assets, such as small lakes for fishing, kayaking or paddleboats, the public swimming pool, easy access from major highways, and good-hearted, hard-working people.

As one longtime resident told me, "Mostly we just need our city leaders to keep their noses clean."











Missing violation now on union leader's driving record
By Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328
May 13, 2016
https://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/missing-violation-now-on-union-leader-s-driving-record/article_f3a066db-83e7-5355-87c2-5b3fd469f800.html


CROWN POINT — The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles has corrected a union leader's driving record to reflect he has two reckless driving convictions in the last five years.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard A. Carter said Friday the new record will be used in any future cases involving Randolph L. “Randy” Palmateer, 37, business manager for the Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council.

Palmateer's amended record now includes his arrest by Crown Point police Aug. 8, 2011. Local court records state the prosecutor charged Palmateer with OWI (operating a vehicle while intoxicated). Palmateer later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of reckless driving in that case.

Palmateer declined comment Friday.

Carter said that the 2011 arrest and conviction were missing from Palmateer's record earlier this month when his staff mistakenly gave Palmateer a second plea bargain in connection with Palmateer's March 25 arrest at a Hammond sobriety checkpoint.

Carter's office charged Palmateer with OWI again. But Carter said he and his staff thought it was Palmateer's first such offense since it wasn't in his permanent BMV record. 

Carter said that if they had known Palmateer had a prior drunken driving arrest, they would have pressed for a trial and a conviction on the OWI charge, which could have carried stiffer penalties.

Instead, the prosecutor gave Palmateer the opportunity to plead guilty May 2 in Hammond City Court to reckless driving under a deal where the newest OWI charge was dropped.

Palmateer did plead guilty to reckless driving, agreed to undergo alcohol counseling, pay court fees and costs of $383 and submit to supervision of the court's probation department for 180 days. He avoided jail time, suspension of his driving privileges and a larger fine.

Carter said earlier he was upset over the mistake and ordered an investigation. He said Friday, "We found and submitted all the paperwork to (BMV) to truly reflect his record. He now has two major traffic violations on his record."

Carter said his research didn't find any evidence of fraud over the missing 2011 record so he cannot petition the court to overturn this month's plea bargain.

Josh Gillespie, deputy commissioner of communications for the BMV, said Friday, "The changes added yesterday were from orders from the court, not from the prosecutor. A prosecutor can't tell us to add or take away anything."

Gillespie said the Lake Station City Court had failed to submit the 2011 case to the BMV. "Some of this we only recently received."

He added the BMV record doesn't reflect police allegations that Palmateer refused to take breath tests because the Lake Station City Court in 2011 and the Hammond City Court this month ordered those to be deleted.

The Hammond City Court judge issued an order May 2 stating he heard evidence of Palmateer's arrest and "now finds that the defendant has not refused to submit to a chemical test for intoxication on March 25, 2016 and orders the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to set aside and vacate the refusal suspension on the defendant's permanent driving record."

The BMV report indicates Palmateer could have his license suspended next month, Sarah Adolf, a BMV spokeswoman said. The record indicates a failure to file proof of insurance coverage.

Palmateer's BMV record also includes nine violations for speeding, seat belt violations and disregarding a traffic signal dating between 1995 and 2008.











Randolph "Randy" Palmateer's driving record
By Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328
May 13, 2016
http://www.nwitimes.com/randolph-randy-palmateer-s-driving-record/pdf_82f1bf6f-cd35-5d84-a59f-f8a8d61e56b9.html













CROWN POINT — Building and trades union official Randolph L. “Randy” Palmateer resigned Wednesday as a member of the Crown Point Board of Public Works.

Palmateer said he is leaving the board which oversees municipal public works projects and service contracts.

Mayor David Uran publicly released Palmateer's letter of resignation which states he has become too busy with commitments to his family and other civic bodies to attend the many public meetings of the board.

His resignation comes a week after he pleaded guilty to reckless driving following his arrest in late March by Hammond police at a sobriety checkpoint. Palmateer had a prior drunken driving arrest in 2011 in Crown Point. In both cases, the charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated were reduced to reckless driving convictions.

Uran appointed Palmateer as a board of public works member several years ago. Palmateer is business manager of the 25,000-member Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council, an AFL-CIO affiliate, which represents more than 38 union trade locals in Lake, Porter, Newton and Jasper counties.

Palmateer also is a Crown Point Democratic precinct committeeman and enjoys positions on the Lake County Economic Development Commission and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, which funnels millions of local tax revenues into economic development projects.

The Democratic majority on the Lake County Council voted Tuesday to reappoint Palmateer to the board of the RDA, over the objections of the two Republican members who wanted to call Palmateer to task for the negative media attention his most recent arrest created.

The works board conducted city business Wednesday without Palmateer and Uran. The mayor who is vacationing out of town, didn't attend.

It awarded a $87,300 contract to Ziese and Sons Excavating of Crown Point, to demolish the old street department and water plant buildings near Grant Street.

The public works department will install new water lines and reline old sewer lines near the intersection of Summit Street and Old Merrillville Road where a new traffic light will be installed. 

Public Works Director Scott Rediger said doing the work in-house should save taxpayers more than $100,000 rather than hiring a private contractor.

The board renewed an agreement to provide city ambulance service to the Lake County Fair and home football games at Crown Point High School later this year.












CROWN POINT — The Lake County prosecutor said reducing charges pending against a union official was a mistake.

“That plea is not indicative of what we should have done in that situation. That just upsets me,” Prosecutor Bernard A. Carter said.

Randolph L. “Randy” Palmateer, 37, business manager for the Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council, avoided conviction of operating a vehicle while intoxicated Monday when he pleaded guilty to reckless driving. A Hammond City Court judge placed Palmateer on 180 days probation.

Carter said Thursday that deal wasn’t a favor to Palmateer, whose political connections extend to many Democratic municipal and county officials.

Hammond police said they arrested Palmateer March 25 at a sobriety checkpoint. The Times has requested any video recording Hammond police made of Palmateer’s arrest. Lt. Richard Hoyda said the city corporation counsel is researching the question.

The prosecutor’s office filed two misdemeanor counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated March 30. Hammond City Court records indicate Palmateer received the plea deal and resolved his case Monday — 34 days later.

Carter said when he heard Palmateer had been charged, he instructed his staff to ensure any plea bargain would be negotiated by a top administrator in his office.

“All my attorneys know if there is any high-profile case, you let us look at it before you negotiate it. If they had brought that deal to Crown Point, we would have picked up on the name quickly,” Carter said.

However, he said, by the time his instruction went out, “They said (defense attorney) Tom Mullins came in yesterday and pleaded him. Clearly, he was rushed into court,” Carter said.

Neither Palmateer nor his attorney returned calls for comment.

Carter said, “Edgar Rodriguez, our deputy in Hammond, negotiated the plea agreement. Edgar said he didn’t recognize the name. He doesn’t get involved in politics.”

He said Rodriguez made his decision under the impression it was Palmateer’s first offense and that the case would be difficult to try in front of a jury, because sobriety check points are unpopular.

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles on Thursday released to The Times a driving history for Palmateer indicating nine convictions for seat belt violations, speeding and disregarding a traffic signal between 1995 and 2008, and a license suspension for his arrest this March, but nothing in 2011.

Carter’s office charged Palmateer in 2011 with operating a vehicle while intoxicated and endangering a person, but dismissed that count after Palmateer pleaded guilty to reckless driving.

Edgar tells me that when he looked at (Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles) records, it had no indication (Palmateer) had a prior,” Carter said.

Carter said, “I don’t know who would have to drop the ball. That (2011 plea) was in Lake Station. Judge (Christopher) Anderson was on the bench. I don’t know who his clerks were, but for whatever reason, it never got sent down to the BMV.”

Anderson, now Lake Station mayor, said Thursday, “I treated (Palmateer) just like any other defendant. No special treatment or singling him out because of who he was.”

Anderson said all traffic cases in his court were processed in open court and handed over to clerks, who entered them into the CourtView Online Court Records system, which is programmed to send an automatic signal of a conviction to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles for its record system.

“Without looking into the situation, I can’t tell you if it was a mistake by the clerk’s office, the BMV or by the computer,” Anderson said, adding the process needs to be simplified to avoid future problems.













Union official gets another OWI break
Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328
May 4, 2016
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/union-official-gets-another-owi-break/article_9be8e9a1-e643-59c1-8820-9a3588a8056f.html

HAMMOND — The Lake County prosecutor's office has reduced drunken driving charges against a Lake County union official for the second time in five years.

City Court records made public Wednesday indicate Randolph L. "Randy" Palmateer, 37, of Crown Point, pleaded guilty Monday in Hammond City Court to reckless driving, a class C misdemeanor.

Palmateer is business manager for the Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council and serves on numerous public boards.

His plea was part of a deal in which the prosecutor dropped two counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, including one that, if convicted, could have resulted in a year imprisonment.

Palmateer agreed to undergo alcohol counseling, pay court fees and costs of $383 and submit to supervision of the court's probation department for 180 days.

The prosecutor and the judge agreed to suspend jail time and a $500 fine for Palmateer as well as send an order the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles to remove from Palmateer's permanent driving record any allegation he refused a chemical test for intoxication at his arrest last month, which could have resulted in one year suspension of his driving privileges.

In 2011, the prosecutor charged Palmateer with operating a vehicle while intoxicated and endangering a person in Crown Point, but dismissed that count after Palmateer pleaded guilty to reckless driving in that case.

Neither, Palmateer, his attorney Thomas Mullins, Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter or Special City Judge Gerald P. Kray returned calls seeking comment.

Hammond police alleged they were conducting a sobriety checkpoint as part of their St. Patrick’s Day/March Madness traffic safety blitz March 25 in the 7200 block of Kennedy Avenue when Palmateer drove up "in an unsafe manner."

Hammond Officer T. Laurinec said Palmateer failed two out of three field sobriety tests. She alleged he took a portable roadside breath test, inadmissible in court, which measured his blood alcohol content at 0.155, almost twice the legal limit of 0.08. She said he refused a second breath test at the police station.

A Times analysis of Lake County court records last year indicated the majority of operating while intoxicated cases filed in Lake County courts are reduced to reckless driving, far more than in neighboring Porter County.

Although this common practice is opposed by victims of drunken driving, the Lake County prosecutor said last year it results in convictions for serious traffic violations. He said a harder approach could swamp already overcrowded court docket, possibly leading to dismissals  of charges in too many cases.













Home Detention Likely in Miranda Brakley Case
Ken Davidson 
April 11, 2016
The Northwest Indiana Gazette

April 11, 2016 - According to Court Documents filed today and on Friday in the case of United States vs. Miranda Brakley, a sentence of 6 months home detention is likely. On Friday, the defense filed a Sentencing Memorandum in which the sentencing guidelines and the plea agreement read together call for a sentence of home detention:

“The Presentence Investigation Report calculates Brakley’s total offense level at 10, with a criminal history category of I. There are no objections by either party to that report. Accordingly, the advisory guideline, Zone B sentencing range is 6-12 months imprisonment. Pursuant to the non-binding recommendation in ¶ 7(c)(ii) of the plea agreement, the recommended sentence that follows from that guideline range is a probationary sentence with six months home detention, as authorized by U.S.S.G §5B1.1(a)(2), 5C1.1(c)(3), and 5C1.1(e)(3)”-Defendant Brakley’s Sentencing Memorandum.

Today, the Government filed a one page report basically agreeing with the contentions of the Defense. Thus, the Court is likely to impose a sentence of 6 months home detention.

Miranda Brakley, the step-daughter of Former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist, was charged in a 2 count indictment with theft from a program receiving government funds and making a false bankruptcy declaration. Brakley plead guilty to the theft charge and the false bankruptcy declaration charge was dismissed pursuant to a plea agreement. A sentencing date has not yet been set.













Lake County union official faces alcohol charge
Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328
Apr 6, 2016
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/crime-and-court/lake-county-union-official-faces-alcohol-charge/article_34b4419f-b2b1-5f07-a6a0-dc4f28a096a9.html

HAMMOND — A Lake County union official has been charged with drunken driving.

The Lake County prosecutor's office has named Randolph L. "Randy" Palmateer, 37, of Crown Point, in a misdemeanor count alleging he was operating his 2013 Ford Explorer while intoxicated and operating it in a way that endangers a person.

Palmateer, who is business manager for the Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council and serves on numerous public boards, didn't return calls seeking comment.

Hammond police allege in a probable cause affidavit filed in court that officers were conducting a sobriety checkpoint as part of their St. Patrick’s Day/March Madness traffic safety blitz 9:25 p.m. March 25 in the 7200 block of Kennedy Avenue.

Officer T. Laurinec stated Palmateer's car entered the checkpoint "in an unsafe manner." She said she smelled alcohol on Palmateer's breath and observed Palmateer's eyes to appear watery. The officer said she saw an unopened can of beer in the car's center console.

She said Palmateer failed two out of three field sobriety tests and took a portable roadside breath test, which measured his blood alcohol content at 0.155, which is almost twice the legal limit of 0.08. He refused to take a second breath test at the police station.

Court records indicate he posted bond. Palmateer's driver's license appears to be attached to the police report. The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles reports Palmateer's driving status is currently normal.

The case is pending before Hammond City Judge Jeffrey A. Harkin and is set for arraignment April 26. No attorney is listed as representing Palmateer in court records.

It is Palmateer's second alcohol-related arrest within five years.

He was charged in 2011 with operating a vehicle while intoxicated and endangering a person in Crown Point. The prosecutor dismissed that count after he pleaded guilty to reckless driving.

The Lake County Board of Commissioners appointed Palmateer in 2013 to the board of directors of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, which funnels millions of dollars in casino and state toll road fees annually into regional infrastructure projects such as the Gary/Chicago International Airport and recreational facilities on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Palmateer also serves on the Lake County Redevelopment Board, the Crown Point City Public Works Board as well as Lake Area United Way, South Shore Promotions, Challenger Learning Center at Purdue University Northwest in Hammond, and the Construction Advisory Board of Ivy Tech, according to the RDA's website.











**************************************** March 25, 2016 - Randy Palmateer - business manager for Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council - arrested for drunk driving 

Lake County union official Randolph L. "Randy" Palmateer, 37 of Crown Point, took a field sobriety test after entering a sobriety checkpoint on March 25. Officer T. Laurinec said Pamateer failed two out of three field sobriety tests and took a portable roadside breath test, which measured his blood alcohol content at 0.155, which is almost twice the legal limit of 0.08. He refused to take a second breath test at the police station.


Union official skirts OWI case, pleads guilty to reckless driving
By Times Staff Sep 6, 2011 
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/crown-point/union-official-skirts-owi-case-pleads-guilty-to-reckless-driving/article_2fb97883-8dbc-5622-9523-73ab872a9ded.html

A region union official has avoided a drunken driving case by pleading guilty to reckless driving, Lake County court records show.

Dismissal of the drunken driving charge is contingent on a six-month review period during which Randy Palmateer must stay out of trouble with the law. He is scheduled to appear at a review hearing in February in Lake Station City Court.

Palmateer was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated and endangering a person following his arrest in Crown Point last month.

Palmateer, business manager of the Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council, was stopped by a Crown Point police officer Aug. 8.

The officer witnessed Palmateer driving 42 mph in a 25 mph zone while weaving along South Court Street near the Lake County Fairgrounds, according to police reports.

Palmateer, who also is an appointed member of the Crown Point Redevelopment Commission, gave off a strong odor of alcohol, appeared confused and had bloodshot, watery eyes when approached by the officer during the stop, police reports state.

Palmateer also was unsteady and swayed when he exited his vehicle and refused an alcohol breath test and sobriety tests at the scene, according to police reports.





NWI union official charged with drunken driving
By Times Staff Aug 12, 2011 
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/crown-point/nwi-union-official-charged-with-drunken-driving/article_110a2945-642b-5938-b333-37b74e193078.html

CROWN POINT | A region union official and member of a city commission faces charges of drunken driving and endangering a person following his arrest earlier this week.

Randy Palmateer, business manager of the Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council, was arrested and charged following a Monday traffic stop, according to Crown Point City Court documents.

A police officer stopped Palmateer, 32, of Crown Point, shortly before 11 p.m. Monday after witnessing him driving 42 mph in a 25 mph zone while weaving along South Court Street near the Lake County Fairgrounds, according to police reports.

Palmateer, who also is an appointed member of the Crown Point Redevelopment Commission, gave off a strong odor of alcohol, appeared confused and had bloodshot, watery eyes when approached by the officer during the stop, police reports state.

Palmateer also was unsteady and swayed when he exited his vehicle and refused an alcohol breath test and sobriety tests at the scene, according to police reports.

The defendant was arrested and charged with misdemeanor counts of operating while intoxicated and operating while intoxicated/endangering a person because his wife was a passenger in his vehicle, court records state. He also was charged with speeding.

Palmateer did not return calls from The Times seeking comment Friday, and court records did not indicate whether a defense attorney has been named in his case.

A hearing is scheduled in the case for Aug. 16 in Crown Point City Court, and the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles has been notified of the charges, according to court records.

May 13, 2016 - Palmateer's amended record now includes his arrest by Crown Point police Aug. 8, 2011. Local court records state the prosecutor charged Palmateer with OWI (operating a vehicle while intoxicated). Palmateer later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of reckless driving in that case.

****************************************





Judge recommends acceptance of deal for Soderquist's wife
January 25, 2016 - 5:17 PM
Chicago Tribune


A federal magistrate judge said Monday he would recommend acceptance of an agreement between federal attorneys and former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist's wife to end two criminal cases against her.

According to the agreement, the government will drop charges against Deborah Soderquist of helping her daughter try to hide that she stole about $16,000 from the city of Lake Station in return for Soderquist to not fight her conviction of using money from her husband's campaign fund and the city's food pantry to pay for gambling trips.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Cherry quizzed Deborah Soderquist Monday afternoon at a hearing at the U.S. District Court in Hammond, asking her if she signed the agreement voluntarily and knew all of the rights she was giving up.

Deborah Soderquist and her husband were both convicted in the gambling case in September after a two-week trial. The two, who have not been sentenced, filed a motion for a new trial.

That motion will be dropped as part of her agreement with federal attorneys. The deal also means she will no longer go on trial in the second case.

The agreement is part of plea deals that the government also worked out with her husband and her daughter, Miranda Brakley. Brakley pled guilty last week to stealing from the city, and the former mayor pled guilty to helping Brakley try to hide the theft by arranging a loan from another party so she could return the money and say she had simply misplaced it.

As part of the mayor's plea agreement, he will also drop all of his acquittal rights and motions in the gambling case.

The deals are all contingent on the others, meaning if one of the defendants does not fully comply, the government can withdraw their part of the agreement for all three.

Deborah Soderquist's deal must still be accepted by U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano. No sentencing dates for the Soderquists or Brakley had been set as of Monday evening.














Soderquist admits helping stepdaughter try to hide theft
January 20, 2016 - 2:36 PM
Chicago Tribune

Former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist pled guilty Wednesday morning to helping his stepdaughter try to hide that she stole $16,000 from the city.

In a short statement to U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Cherry, Soderquist explained that he learned in December 2012 that Miranda Brakley, who had worked for the city as a court clerk, had stolen the money.

He then helped arrange a loan of $15,000 from a third party in order to help Brakley "in an effort to help cover up the crime," Soderquist said.

"Guilty," Soderquist said when asked how he pled.

The former mayor, who wore a brown suit jacket with a yellow button-down shirt, otherwise spoke little during the hearing, answering Cherry's questions with a "yes" or "no."

Brakley also pled guilty Wednesday morning to one count of stealing from the city. She admitted that it was her responsibility to deposit bond payments from court defendants but that from August 2011 until July 2012, she instead embezzled the money for her own use.

"I took $16,000 in bond money without any permission," she said.

She then tried to claim that she had mistakenly taken the money but had never used it, using the loan Soderquist arranged for her to help cover up the crime.

Scott King, attorney for Soderquist, praised his client after the hearing, saying that the main reason he decided to take the deal was to help protect Brakley and his wife from further prosecution.

"I have a lot of respect for that," King said.

Soderquist's guilty plea was part of a deal with federal attorneys that also helps end a separate criminal case against him and his wife, Deborah Soderquist. A federal jury convicted both of them in September of using money from his campaign fund and the city's food pantry to pay for dozens of gambling trips. The two had filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that the judge fell asleep at least twice during the trial.

However, they now agree to drop the motion and waive their appellate rights in that case. In return, federal attorneys will drop charges against Deborah Soderquist in her daughter's case and recommend that Keith Soderquist's sentences in both cases run concurrently.

The deals for all three are contingent on the others also abiding by their deals, so if one violates the terms, the other two lose their benefits.

A sentencing date has not been set for either case.













Ex-Lake Station mayor pleads guilty to cover-up
Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328
Jan 20, 2016
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/ex-lake-station-mayor-pleads-guilty-to-cover-up/article_7f2bc547-4cf3-5d90-8f1c-eddf1f9ff11a.html


HAMMOND — Former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his stepdaughter remain free on bond after admitting in U.S. District Court she embezzled City Court funds and he tried to cover it up.

The 46-year-old now bearded former municipal executive told Magistrate Judge Paul Cherry on Wednesday he voluntarily has given up his rights to a second jury trial and to appeal his earlier conviction for public corruption.

He told the court he learned in 2012 his stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley, embezzled about $16,000 from Lake Station City Court while she was employed there as a clerk.

He borrowed money from an unidentified person to replace the missing money as part of a cover-up story that Brakley had only misplaced, not stolen the amount.

Brakley, 35, who also lives in Lake Station, pleaded guilty to the theft Wednesday.

They and the former mayor's wife, Deborah Soderquist, remain free while awaiting sentencing. No date has been set and the range of their potential sentences isn't known presently. The magistrate said there is a possibility Brakley could receive home detention.

The former mayor and his stepdaughter were scheduled to go to trial next month, but signed plea agreements Tuesday in return for possible leniency. They and the former mayor's wife also gave up all future appeals, including their previous effort to win a new trial on their earlier wire fraud convictions.

A jury found the former mayor and his wife guilty Sept. 11 of improperly taking thousands of dollars from Keith Soderquist's re-election campaign fund and the city's food pantry account to gamble at nearby casinos. They previously sought a new trial on grounds U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano fell asleep while presiding over their trial.

The former mayor, who had served nearly eight years, came under state and federal scrutiny four years ago after former Lake Station City Judge Christopher A. Anderson discovered Brakley stole bond money those arrested in Lake Station posted to get out of jail.

Anderson left the bench last year, ran for Lake Station mayor and defeated Soderquist and a Republican opponent.

Merrillville defense attorney Scott King said the plea deal represents the former mayor's effort to spare the health of his family from the stress of another trial and lengthy appeal.













Soderquist and Step-Daughter Agree to Plead Guilty
Ken Davidson / January 19, 2016
The Northwest Indiana Gazette

According to court documents filed today, Keith Soderquist and his stepdaughter Miranda Brakley have agreed to plead guilty in US Discrict Court in Hammond. The former Mayor and his wife were convicted after a trial in September 2015 and still face sentencing in that case. Those charges related to the misuse of campaign finance accounts and the theft of funds from the Lake Station Food Pantry. The Government laid out a pattern of travelling to a casino in Michigan where the Soderquists lost large sums of money.

These guilty pleas stem from the theft of to one count of theft from a program receiving federal funds. Under $10,000 by Miranda Brakley and the actions of Keith and Deborah Soderquist in covering up that theft.

Charges against Deborah Soderquist will be dismissed according to the Court documents. Keith Soderquist will plea guilty to one count of accessory after the fact which carries a prison term of up to 5 years. Soderquist’s sentence will be imposed consecutively, meaning any time he actually is required to serve in this case will be after the first sentence is completed. Although there is a possibility of up to 5 years in prison, it seems likely that he will see a matter of months added on to his sentence under the plea agreement.

Under the terms of Brakley’s the plea agreement, Brakley faces up to ten years in prison. That is not likely either, however, as the plea agreement specifically refers to a sentence of home detention:
” if my sentence falls into Zone C on the
U.S.S.G. sentencing table, the government’s recommendation will be to the
minimum under that section, a sentence of imprisonment that includes a
term of supervised release with a condition that substitutes community
confinement or home detention for one-half of the minimum term of
imprisonment;”

Under Federal Law, all factors to be included in the sentencing cannot be fully determined until a pre-sentence investigation is completed. Depending on those factors, the Government could ask for a sentence of imprisonment followed by a period of home detention or solely home detention. See the full plea agreement below.













Former Lake Station mayor, stepdaughter to plead guilty
Sarah Reese 
NWI Times
Jan 19, 2016 


HAMMOND — Former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist plans to plead guilty Wednesday to allegations he helped his stepdaughter cover up her embezzlement from City Court and waive his rights to appeal his earlier conviction on wire fraud charges, court records show.

In a plea agreement filed Tuesday, Soderquist admitted he learned in December 2012 that Miranda Brakley had embezzled more than $5,000 in bond money from the court while she was working there.

After learning of the embezzlement, Soderquist helped Brakley obtain a $15,000 loan from a third party to cover up her crime, the plea agreement says. Soderquist will plead guilty to one count of accessory after the fact, U.S. District Court records say.

Brakley plans to plea guilty Wednesday to one count of theft from a government entity, according to court records.

Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, further agreed to withdraw all pending motions, refrain from filing any additional motions for a new trial and waive their right to appeal their convictions in the wire fraud case.

The couple were convicted Sept. 11 of improperly using money from Keith Soderquist's campaign fund and the city's food pantry account to gamble. Keith Soderquist was removed from office upon his conviction.

The Soderquists were seeking a new trial and moved to disqualify U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano in the wire fraud case based on claims the judge fell asleep at least two times during their trial.

If a judge accepts the plea agreements, any sentence Keith Soderquist receives in the case involving Brakley will run concurrently with his sentence in the wire fraud case, court records say.

Lozano in December granted the Soderquists' motion to delay their sentencing in the wire fraud case, but a new date has not yet been scheduled.












Former mayor Soderquist to plead guilty, drop motion for new trial
January 19, 2016 - 6:00 PM
Chicago Tribune


Former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist has reached a deal with federal attorneys to plead guilty in one criminal case and to stop fighting his conviction in another.

According to a plea agreement filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Hammond, Soderquist admits he helped his stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley, hide that she stole more than $5,000 in court bond money from the city by helping her get a $15,000 loan from someone else. He faces up to five years in prison for pleading guilty to one count of acting as an accessory after the fact.

As part of the deal, Soderquist will drop his fight in a separate criminal case in which a federal jury convicted him in September of using money from his campaign fund and Lake Station's food pantry on dozens of gambling trips to Michigan.

Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, who was also convicted, had filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano fell asleep at least twice during the two-week long trial.

Both Soderquists have agreed to drop that motion and waive all their appeal rights in that case. In return, federal attorneys are dropping all charges against Deborah Soderquist in the case involving her daughter, and they will recommend that Keith Soderquist serve his sentences in both cases concurrently. They will also recommend he serve the minimum of the recommended federal sentencing guideline range in the case involving Brakley and that he serve within the guideline range for the other case. The guideline range will be determined at the sentencing hearing.

Brakley has also agreed to plead guilty to one count of theft from a program receiving federal funds. She faces up to 10 years in prison, although she could avoid jail time entirely. In return, the government will drop a second count of lying on her bankruptcy filing.

The agreements for both Soderquists stipulate that all three defendants must abide by their agreement for the mayor and his wife to receive the benefits of their own agreements.

Scott King, attorney for the Soderquists, said that the plea agreements came after concerns about the health of both Deborah Soderquist and Brakley.

"We thought there was an opportunity at trial here," he said. "But both have health issues."

The mayor was concerned and protective of them, King said.

"Frankly I've got a great deal of respect for him," he said.

Thomas Vanes, attorney for Brakley, declined to comment on the agreement.

A change of plea hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

The agreements appear to end the legal saga of the Soderquists. Trouble first became public when then-Mayor Soderquist and then-Lake Station City Judge Chris Anderson got into a public fight over Brakley in June 2012 after Anderson fired her from her job as a court clerk.

Soderquist and the Lake Station City Council wrested control of all the court clerks from Anderson, placing them under the clerk-treasurer, but a Lake County judge later reversed the move after Anderson filed a lawsuit.

The Indiana State Board of Accounts later reported Brakley never deposited about $16,000 of bond money into the court's bank account. She returned the money by December 2012, claiming she had mistakenly taken it with her other belongings when she was fired and that it had sat in her vehicle ever since.

FBI agents would then raid City Hall in 2013, and federal attorneys filed charges against the Soderquists and Brakley in the spring of 2014. Keith Soderquist ended up losing to Anderson in the May 2015 Democratic mayoral primary.












Brothers sworn in as mayor, City Council member in Lake Station
Carrie Napoleon
Post-Tribune
December 31, 2015
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-anderson-lake-station-st-0101-20151231-story.html



More than 100 people packed Lake Station City Hall to see a new city administration take the oath of office Wednesday night.

Flanked by family members, new Mayor Christopher Anderson was sworn-in just minutes after his younger brother, Neil Anderson, took the oath of office to serve as one of the city's two at-large council members.

Also sworn-in Wednesday were Carlos Luna, D-1st; Fred Williams, D-3rd; Rick Long, D-5th; Clerk-Treasurer Joseph Castellanos and city court Judge Josh Matejczyk, also Democrats. Longtime Hobart city court Judge William Longer administered the oath. Long was the lone incumbent seeking re-election in the city to retain his seat.

The city's three other council members, Esther Rocha-Baldazo, D-at large; Jennifer Miller, I-2nd, and Erika Castillo, D-4th were sworn-in earlier this month at the Lake County Government Center in Crown Point.

"We have our work cut out for us," Christopher Anderson told the crowd.

The new mayor takes the city's helm in the wake of the conviction of former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist. Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, were convicted in September of using money from his election fund and the city's food pantry to pay for dozens of gambling trips. They have filed a motion for a new trial.

Anderson credited interim Mayor Dewey Lemley, who has served since Soderquist's conviction, with spending the past couple months laying the groundwork to get the city back on track. Lemley was the city's mayor from 1992 to 1996,

"It's time to get to work," Anderson said.

He vowed the first changes in the cash-strapped city government would be quick and inexpensive. Anderson said the city will join the Shared Ethics Advisory Committee and work to improve the transparency of city operations.

"I have a lot of mixed emotions: excitement, a little nervousness about what I might find when I walk into the office," Anderson said after the ceremony.

Resident Dimitri Tsahas was among those in the gallery. He has been a longtime friend of the Anderson family and came out to support the new officials.

"There is a whole lot of work to do. I don't expect too much right away," Tsahas said.

Another resident, who declined to be identified, said she came out because she wanted to see the ceremony. She is looking forward to a having a new administration.

"I hope they straighten the city out, get us out of debt and get us on the right track," she said.

Anderson has spent the past few months in close contact with Lemley, and the past couple weeks working with him to ease the transition. Anderson said he does not necessarily expect any new surprises about the city's finances when he starts the job Monday, but "you never know."

A $500,000 unpaid paving bill, which Anderson said nobody was aware of, was among the problems discovered by Lemley.

"It was somewhat of a big surprise," Anderson said.

His work will begin with getting an understanding of where the city stands financially. Much work must be done, but it will cost money, so that means it may take time, he said. Anderson said residents have so far been understanding and know time is needed to get the city turned around.

"They are well aware of what happened here," he said.

Attracting new business and increasing the property tax base will be crucial to changing the financial situation, he said.

Anderson said he was glad to see his younger brother win a seat on the council and is looking forward to working with him and the rest of the panel. He said council members must speak their mind and ask questions, and not just vote for every measure that comes before them. He expects his brother to speak his mind and said he may do so "more so than anybody else" because of their relationship.

He knows that may not always go smoothly.

"We are going to disagree," Anderson said. "I welcome the council's opinions."

Carrie Napoleon is a freelance reporter for the Post Tribune.












Soderquist sentencing delayed
December 09, 2015 - 2:45PM
Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345

HAMMOND — Former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, were granted a delay in next Tuesday's sentencing for improperly using money from Keith's campaign fund and the city's food pantry account to gamble.

U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano granted the motion Tuesday and has yet to set a new date.

The delay was sought by defense attorney Scott King, who argued there are decisions still pending in Soderquist's request for a new judge and new trial.

The couple, who was convicted Sept. 11, is arguing that Lozano fell asleep at least two times during their trial.

Federal prosecutors have said they reviewed courtroom security video and found no reason the Soderquists should be granted a new trial.

King said his ability to meet with the defendants to review draft versions of the pre-sentence reports has been compromised by Deborah Soderquist's health and King's schedule.

King said the prosecutor in the case does not object to the continuance. A delay of 45 days was requested.












Prosecutors say judge wasn't asleep, Soderquists shouldn't get new trial
December 03, 2015 12:30 pm  •  
Sarah Reese sarah.reese@nwi.com, (219) 933-3351


HAMMOND | Federal prosecutors say they reviewed courtroom security video and found no reason former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and wife Deborah should be granted a new trial.

The Soderquists were convicted Sept. 11 of improperly using money from Keith Soderquist's campaign fund and the city's food pantry account to gamble.

They're seeking a new trial and have moved to disqualify U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano based on claims the judge fell asleep at least two times during their trial.

The U.S. attorney's office said in a recent court filing that Lozano appeared "less than completely attentive" during 2 to 2.5 minutes of their trial, which included dozens of hours of testimony and spanned seven days. Nothing in trial transcripts "supports an inference that the court was sleeping during trial," the filing says.

"The defendants fail to state with any specificity how they have been deprived of any due process right," the filing says. "For example, they do not claim that the alleged inattention of the court led to any erroneous ruling or allowed inadmissible evidence to be presented to the jury.

"Furthermore, the defendants fail to assert what the court should have done differently and how the claimed inattentiveness may have affected the outcome of this trial."

The Soderquists claim Lozano, when informed by the defense that he appeared to be asleep, responded he was not sleeping. The judge also denied the defendants' request for a mistrial.

The defense says the Lozano's actions show his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.

The U.S. attorney's office says the Soderquists' motions are "totally unsupported by the record of this case."

Scott King, attorney for the Soderquists, on Wednesday filed a motion seeking to delay the couple's Dec. 15 sentencing for about 45 days.

Defense attorneys are preparing a reply to the government's filing that will include a request for an evidentiary hearing, the motion says.

King's ability to meet with the Soderquists have been compromised by Deborah Soderquist's health and King's schedule, the motion says.

Keith Soderquist was removed from the mayor's office after his conviction. He, his wife and his stepdaughter Miranda Brakley are now facing trial in a second, separate case.

Brakley is accused of embezzling more than $16,000 in bond money posted on behalf of individuals arrested in Lake Station from 2010 and 2012. She's also charged with failing to report $7,000 in payments she received for "compensatory time" she supposedly earned while working for the Lake Station City Court.

The Soderquists are each charged in the second case with being accessories after the fact to Brakley's alleged theft and structuring a financial transaction.

U.S. District Judge James Moody scheduled their trial in that case for Feb. 1.












Feds: No evidence of judge sleeping during Soderquist trial
November 27, 2015 - 5:02PM


Federal attorneys argue that a video from former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist's criminal trial in September does not show his judge fell asleep.

In a response filed Friday in the U.S. District Court in Hammond, the federal attorneys claim there's no evidence, either from the security video or from trial transcripts, to support the motion by Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, for U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano to recuse himself and for a new trial.

"In a trial lasting over seven days and literally dozens of hours of testimony, nothing on the trial video recording even remotely approaches any supportable claim that the defendants were denied due process," federal attorneys say in the response.

Scott King and Lakeisha Murdaugh, attorneys for the Soderquists, filed for the new trial soon after the Soderquists were convicted of using money from his campaign fund and the city's food pantry to pay for dozens of gambling trips to Michigan. In the motion, they argue the judge fell asleep at least twice during the trial, depriving the Soderquists of their right to a fair trial by not properly overseeing the trial. King said at the time that if the judge missed parts of the trial, then he might not have been able to properly rule on motions.

Both the government and the defense were allowed to review the security video from the trial, and now federal attorneys argue it doesn't support the Soderquists' claims.

"The best that can be said for the defense is that a two- and a two-and-a-half-minute portion of the entire trial video could arguably be claimed to support the defendant's assertion the trial court was less than completely attentive," the government's response says.

They argue that the defense hasn't shown specifically how that affected their trial rights. The government is asking Lozano to deny the defense's motions for his recusal and a new trial.












Prosecutors can't watch Soderquist trial videos alone
November 05, 2015 7:00 pm  •  
Sarah Reese sarah.reese@nwi.com, (219) 933-3351

HAMMOND | The U.S. attorney's office will not be permitted to individually view recordings from the September trial of former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, federal court records show.

The Sodequists were convicted Sept. 11 of improperly using money from Soderquist's campaign fund and the city's food pantry account to gamble.

They're seeking a new trial based on claims U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano fell asleep during parts of their trial.

Lozano on Oct. 21 granted the couple's motion to inspect courtroom security video recordings from the Sept. 1 to 11 trial. However, he ordered the recordings be viewed only one time by defense and government attorneys at the U.S. Marshals Service office in Hammond.

Prosecutors had sought the individual viewing because Scott King, the Soderquists' attorney, was busy preparing for the couple's second trial — which had been set to start Nov. 9 — and likely would not be available until after that date.

U.S. District Judge James Moody on Tuesday rescheduled the second trial for Feb. 1. Moody was assigned to the Sodequists' second case after Lozano granted the couple's motion to recuse himself.

Lozano has not yet issued rulings in the first case on the Soderquists' motions for a new trial and to disqualify the judge.

Lozano on Tuesday ordered the U.S. attorney's office to file responses to the couple's pending motions by Nov. 24.

Keith Soderquist was removed from the mayor's office after his conviction in the first case. He, his wife and his stepdaughter Miranda Brakley are now facing trial on various charges in the second case.

Brakley is accused of embezzling more than $16,000 in bond money posted on behalf of individuals arrested in Lake Station from 2010 and 2012. She's also charged with failing to report $7,000 in payments she received for "compensatory time" she supposedly earned while working for the Lake Station City Court.

The Soderquists are each charged in the second case with being accessories after the fact to Brakley's alleged theft and structuring a financial transaction.












Soderquists' trial now slated for February 2016
November 03, 2015 11:45 pm  •  
Sarah Reese sarah.reese@nwi.com, (219) 933-3351



HAMMOND | A federal judge on Tuesday agreed to postpone an upcoming trial for former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife and stepdaughter, and seal court filings about why they sought the delay.

Keith Soderquist, Deborah Soderquist and her daughter, Miranda Brakley, are now scheduled to stand trial Feb. 1.

The rulings came one day after defense attorneys for the Soderquists and Brakley urged U.S. District Judge James Moody to reject a request by the U.S. attorney's office to present evidence it alleges will show Soderquist attempted to abolish the City Court to cover up an alleged theft of bond money by Brakley.

Scott King, attorney for the Soderquists, and Thomas Vanes, attorney for Brakley, say there are "significant omissions" in evidence the government wants to present.

As of Tuesday, Moody had not yet ruled on the government's request to present evidence and testimony at trial.

Defense attorneys say the battle over the City Court was long-standing and messy, and the discovery of audit irregularities linking Brakley to missing bond money "could not have served as the motive or impetus" for a Dec. 6, 2012, attempt to abolish the court.

"The viability of the Lake Station City Court from a financial perspective was an ongoing concern for the other branches of city government, a concern that significantly predated the (State Board of Accounts) audit," defense attorneys wrote in their response to the government's request.

Brakley, who worked as a deputy clerk in City Court from 2008 until she was fired in July 2012, is accused of embezzling more than $16,000 in bond money posted on behalf of individuals arrested in Lake Station from 2010 and 2012. She's also charged with failing to report $7,000 in payments she received for "compensatory time" she supposedly earned while working for the city, court records state.

The Soderquists each are charged with being accessories after the fact to Brakley's alleged theft and structuring a financial transaction.

The government's argument is "predicated on a particular timeline," the defense says.

That timeline includes a Dec. 4, 2012, message from the State Board of Accounts advising Soderquist of a need to interview Brakley in connection with the audit and a last-minute addition to the City Council's Dec. 6, 2012, agenda of an ordinance to abolish the City Court, defense attorneys wrote.

Prosecutors say the timing of Soderquist's effort to abolish the City Court and its correlation with a "midnight run" the Soderquists made to Kentucky to borrow $15,000 from a relative are "direct evidence of the Soderquists' efforts to assist Brakley and ensure she was not apprehended for her crime."

The day after a State Board of Accounts supervisor left Soderquist a message, he called a relative and asked for a $15,000 loan, prosecutors allege.

Two days later, on Dec. 6, 2012, the City Council voted not to abolish the City Court. After the vote, the Soderquists drove through the night to obtain money from the relative, prosecutors allege.

The relative wrote three separate checks, prosecutors allege. Deborah Soderquist cashed a $6,000 check Dec. 8, 2012, in Kentucky, a $5,000 check on Dec. 9, 2012, in Merrillville, and a $4,000 check Dec. 10, 2012, in Munster, court records state.

On Dec. 10, Brakley provided about $15,000 to the State Board of Accounts and claimed the money mistakenly ended up in her SUV the day she was fired, court records state.

Admitting evidence outlined by prosecutors is likely to cause confusion of issues and increase time spent in trial, defense attorneys wrote.

If it is permitted, the defense will seek to offer counter evidence showing Soderquist's "ongoing attempt to stem the flow of red ink" from the City Court. A financial consultant hired in November 2012, found the City Court was operating at a loss from 2009 to October 2012, and was routinely waiving fines and fees for a select group of attorneys, defense attorneys say.












Dems retain mayor's office in Lake Station
Carrie Napoleon
Post-Tribune
November 03, 2015
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-lake-station-mayor-st-1104-20151103-story.html

Former Lake Station City Court Judge Chris Anderson will become the city's newest mayor after a landslide victory over his Republican challenger, Edward "Ed" Peralta.

The city's Republicans were not able to capitalize Tuesday on the scandal created when the city's former Democratic mayor, Keith Soderquist, was found guilty of wire fraud and filing false income tax returns for using campaign funds and money from the city's food pantry to pay for gambling excursions in September. He is seeking a new trial.

Soderquist lost to Anderson in the primary.

Anderson garnered 87 percent of the votes, to Peralta's 14 percent showing, according to unofficial vote totals.

Anderson and Peralta both campaigned on the need for change in how the city operates and the creation of greater transparency in order to rebuild residents' faith in their government.

They also both acknowledged before Tuesday's vote that if a Republican were to have a shot at office in what has traditionally been a Democratic stronghold, Soderquist's public downfall likely would have created that opportunity.

Voters showed that despite the scandal the party was not losing influence in the city.

"I think based on results today it is safe to say the Democrats are still strong in Lake Station," Anderson said to cheers from the approximately 200 people who packed Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9323 to watch results.

He said the city faces challenges in the coming year and he is ready to jump in and begin moving forward Jan. 1. Anderson said he would like to immediately implement changes that have no cost associated with them but would improve service to residents, such as increasing transparency and responding to questions and concerns, regardless of the answer.

Anderson said he also plans to have the city join the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission and participate in the training that comes with it.

The mayor-elect said he has already established a good relationship with interim Mayor Dewey Lemley and plans to continue working with him on some of the city's issues in the coming weeks while he is winding down his law practice so he is ready to hit the ground running in January.

"I know everybody (who was elected) will put their heart and soul in to making things right," Anderson said.

Peralta said he was disappointed by the results.

"If that's what the people spoke, the people deserve what they pick. It's the people's choice. I don't know what to say," he said.

Carrie Napoleon is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.












Defense: Gov't left out details in evidence it wants to present at Soderquist trial
November 02, 2015 11:15 pm  •  
Sarah Reese sarah.reese@nwi.com, (219) 933-3351


HAMMOND | Defense attorneys for former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist, his wife and stepdaughter said Monday there are "significant omissions" in evidence the government wants to present at the their clients' upcoming trial.

The U.S. attorney's office filed a motion last week seeking a ruling permitting the presentation of evidence and testimony it says shows Soderquist attempted to abolish the City Court to cover up an alleged theft of bond money by his stepdaughter.

Attorneys for Keith Soderquist, wife Deborah and her daughter Miranda Brakley on Monday filed a response urging U.S. District Judge James Moody to deny prosecutors' request.

A hearing on their request to continue their Nov. 9 trial is set for Tuesday.

Defense attorneys say the battle over the City Court was long-standing and messy, and the discovery of audit irregularities linking Brakley to missing bond money "could not have served as the motive or impetus" for a Dec. 6, 2012, attempt to abolish the court.

"The viability of the Lake Station City Court from a financial perspective was an ongoing concern for the other branches of city government, a concern that significantly predated the (State Board of Accounts) audit," defense attorneys say.

Brakley, who worked as a deputy clerk in City Court from 2008 until she was fired in July 2012, is accused of embezzling more than $16,000 in bond money posted on behalf of individuals arrested in Lake Station from 2010 and 2012. She's also charged with failing to report $7,000 in payments she received for "compensatory time" she supposedly earned while working for the city, court records state.

Keith and Deborah Soderquist are each charged with accessory after the fact to Brakley's alleged theft and structuring a financial transaction.

The government's argument is "predicated on a particular timeline," according to the response filed by Scott King, attorney for the Soderquists, and Thomas Vanes, attorney for Brakley.

That timeline includes a Dec. 4, 2012, message from the State Board of Accounts advising Soderquist of a need to interview Brakley in connection with the audit and a last-minute addition to the City Council's Dec. 6, 2012, agenda of an ordinance to abolish the City Court, defense attorneys wrote.

Prosecutors say the timing of Soderquist's effort to abolish the City Court and its correlation with a "midnight run" the Soderquists made to Kentucky to borrow $15,000 from a relative are "direct evidence of the Sodequists' efforts to assist Brakley and ensure she was not apprehended for her crime."

The day after a State Board of Accounts supervisor left Soderquist a message, he called a relative and asked for a $15,000 loan, prosecutors allege.

Two days later, on Dec. 6, 2012, the City Council voted not to abolish the City Court. After the vote, the Soderquists drove through the night to obtain money from the relative, prosecutors allege.

The relative wrote three separate checks, prosecutors allege. Deborah Soderquist cashed a $6,000 check Dec. 8, 2012, in Kentucky, a $5,000 check on Dec. 9, 2012, in Merrillville, and a $4,000 check Dec. 10, 2012, in Munster, court records state.

On Dec. 10, Brakley provided about $15,000 to the State Board of Accounts and claimed the money mistakenly ended up in her SUV the day she was fired, court records state.

Admitting evidence outlined by prosecutors is likely to cause confusion of issues and increase time spent in trial, defense attorneys wrote.

If it is permitted, the defense will seek to offer counter evidence showing Soderquist's "ongoing attempt to stem the flow of red ink" from the City Court. A financial consultant hired in November 2012 found the City Court was operating at a loss from 2009 to October 2012 and was routinely waiving fines and fees for a select group of attorneys, defense attorneys say.












Soderquist prosecutors want to watch trial video alone
October 28, 2015 5:00 pm  •  
Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345


HAMMOND | Prosecutors in the first federal criminal case against former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, are seeking permission for their own viewing of the video recording of the September trial.

While the court ordered that attorneys for both sides watch the video during a single viewing, prosecutors said in a motion filed Wednesday that the defense is busy preparing for a second trial Nov. 9 and would not likely be available until after that date.

Prosecutors hope to see the video as soon as next week in order to have time respond to the defendant's motion for a new trial by a sought-after deadline of Nov. 10, according to the motion. The defense can watch the video after the Nov. 9 trial.

"Without allowing this prompt review of the videotape by the government, it is unlikely that a review by all of the parties will occur any time before the week of November 16, 2015, thereby delaying the government's response by several weeks," the motion says.

The Soderquists were granted the right last week to view the trial video.

Attorneys for the Soderquists are seeking a retrial, claiming their clients were denied a fair trial because the federal judge presiding over the case — U.S. District Senior Judge Rudy Lozano — was asleep during portions of their criminal trial.

Jurors on Sept. 11 found the Soderquists guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of false filing. They were accused of improperly using money from Soderquist's campaign fund and the city's food pantry account to gamble.

The couple was granted a different judge in their upcoming second and separate criminal trial next month, which includes their daughter, Miranda Brakley.

Brakley is charged with stealing money from the city of Lake Station when she worked as a court clerk, and the Soderquists are accused of helping her hide the crime. All three have pleaded not guilty.












Feds say Soderquist tried to abolish court to hide theft
October 28, 2015 - 3:44 PM
Chicago Tribune


Former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist tried to dissolve the city court in order to hide that his stepdaughter stole from the city government, federal attorneys argue in a motion.

The motion, filed in the U.S. District Court in Hammond, lays out a six-day timeline of the mayor's reaction to questions from the state about more than $15,000 in missing money.

"The Soderquists were desperate to cover up (Miranda) Brakley's crime," the motion says.

Brakley is accused of stealing money from a federally funded program and lying on her bankruptcy filings. Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, are charged with acting as accessories after the fact and money structuring. Their trial is scheduled to start Nov. 9.

According to the government's motion, auditors with the Indiana State Board of Accounts discovered in 2012 that more than $16,000 in bond money was missing from the city's accounts. Police officers properly logged in the bonds as they were paid, but they weren't entered into the city court's computer system. Auditors pegged Brakley, who then worked as a deputy court clerk, and left a message for Soderquist on Dec. 4, 2012, to schedule an interview with her.

Two days later, he helped introduce an ordinance at a City Council meeting to dissolve the city court entirely, although the ordinance failed.

Federal attorneys argue in the motion that the mayor claimed this move was initiated by council members but that he was the one behind it in order to try to cover up the theft by taking control of the court's finances to move money around.

"While this plan had significant issues, it certainly couldn't fare worse than the coverup plan to which the defendants ultimately resorted," the motion says

That plan actually started a day before the council meeting, according to the motion, when the mayor called a relative asking to borrow $15,000. Federal attorneys argue the mayor waited to actually collect the money until the council voted on the ordinance to abolish the court. When the vote failed, he and his wife left the next day to drive to the relative's home in Kentucky, arriving at about 3 or 4 a.m., the motion says.

"They did not take a leisurely trip to Kentucky," the motion says.

At the request of the Soderquists, the motion says, the relative wrote them three checks totalling $15,000, each backdated to a different date in the past month. Federal law requires banks to notify the government for any banking activity of more than $10,000. Breaking up one deposit into smaller ones that do not go over $10,000 is considered money structuring.

Deborah Soderquist then cashed one of the checks that same day at a bank in Kentucky, the second check a day later at a bank in Merrillville and the third check on Dec. 10 at a bank in Munster.

That's the same day Brakley gave the SBOA a little more than $15,000 in cash, saying she had only just discovered the money sitting in her vehicle. She claimed was actually going to deposit the bond money when she was fired in June 2012 and then accidentally put the money in her vehicle, where it sat unnoticed for months, documents said.

Federal attorneys are asking that U.S. District Judge James Moody allow them to present evidence of these actions to a jury as proof that the Soderquists knowingly tried to help Brakley hide her theft. They say that trying to abolish the city court is not necessarily evidence of a crime but that the fact it was done so close in relation to the call from the SBOA elevates it.











Soderquists granted one viewing of trial video
October 21, 2015 10:53 am  •  
Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345


HAMMOND | Former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, were granted their request Wednesday to view the courtroom video recording from their September criminal trial.

The video of the court proceedings from Sept. 1 through Sept. 11 will be shown just once at the office of the U.S. Marshals Service with defense and government attorneys present at an agreed upon time, according to the order.

"No copies, photographs, or any other recorded images or additional recordings may be made by any party," the order says.

Attorneys for the Soderquists are seeking a retrial, claiming their clients were denied a fair trial because the federal judge presiding over the case — U.S. District Senior Judge Rudy Lozano —- was asleep during portions of their criminal trial.
Jurors on Sept. 11 found the Soderquists guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of false filing. They were accused of improperly using money from Soderquist's campaign fund and the city's food pantry account to gamble.

The couple was granted a different judge in their upcoming second and separate criminal trial next month, which includes their daughter, Miranda Brakley.

Brakley is charged with stealing money from the city of Lake Station when she worked as a court clerk, and the Soderquists are accused of helping her hide the crime. All three have pleaded not guilty.












Soderquists get new judge for second criminal trial
October 08, 2015 6:05 pm  •  
Jim Masters Times Correspondent


HAMMOND | Former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife had their petition granted for a different judge in their upcoming second criminal trial.

Keith and Deborah Soderquist claimed in court documents that U.S. District Court Judge Rudy Lozano fell asleep at times during their trial. A federal jury convicted the Soderquists on Sept. 11 of improperly using local food pantry and campaign funds to gamble at casinos. The Soderquists are seeking a retrial in that case on the basis they did not receive a fair trial.

Separately, the Soderquists and their daughter, Miranda Brakley, are to go to trial in November.

Brakley is charged with stealing money from the city of Lake Station when she worked as a court clerk, and the Soderquists are accused of helping her hide the crime. All three have pleaded not guilty.

Lozano voluntarily recused himself in the case. In court documents he makes no admission of falling asleep during the Soderquists’ trial. The case has been referred to Senior Judge Philip P. Simon.













Soderquists seek delay in second trial because of pending post-conviction motions
September 28, 2015 8:15 pm  •  
Sarah Reese sarah.reese@nwi.com, (219) 933-3351


HAMMOND | Attorneys for former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, asked a judge Monday to recuse himself from their second criminal case and sought a delay in their upcoming trial.

A U.S. District Court jury found the Soderquists guilty Sept. 11 on several charges alleging they improperly used money from Keith Soderquist's campaign fund and the city's food pantry account to gamble.

The couple and the mayor's stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley, are scheduled to stand trial in November on separate charges. In that case, they are accused of knowing Brakley took at least $5,000 from the Lake Station City Court and helping to prevent her apprehension by police.

The Soderquists are seeking a new trial in the first case because they allege Judge Rudy Lozano was asleep during parts of the proceedings. Their attorneys have filed a motion for a new trial, a motion to inspect courtroom security video and a motion for disqualification of Lozano in that case.

The post-conviction motions are unlikely to be resolved before the scheduled trial in the second case involving Brakley, according to a court document filed by Scott King and Lakeisha Murdaugh, the Soderquists' attorneys. The timing in the two cases would subject Lozano's impartiality to reasonable question, the attorneys wrote.

The Soderquists also are seeking to delay their Nov. 9 trial on the charges of accessory after the fact and structuring financial transactions. Brakley in charged in that case with theft from programs receiving federal funds and false bankruptcy declaration.

The cases have been covered extensively by local media, and publicity regarding the resolution of the Soderquists' post-conviction motions is likely to occur near the start of their second trial, court documents say.

"This publicity could compromise the defendants' right to have a fair and impartial jury in this case," the Soderquists' attorneys wrote.

Brakley's attorney, Thomas Vanes, supports the Soderquists' latest motions, court documents say.












Soderquist wants new trial; says judge slept on bench
Chicago Tribune
September 22, 2015 - 7:33 PM


Attorneys for former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist are asking for a new trial because they say the federal judge fell asleep at least twice during his recent public corruption trial.

A federal jury in Hammond convicted both Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, on Sept. 11 on public corruption charges after an eight-day trial at the U.S. District Court.

Scott King and Lakeisha Murdaugh, attorneys for the Soderquists, filed three motions Tuesday, including a motion for a new trial and a motion for a new judge.

They say in the motions that U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano appeared to fall asleep several times during the trial.

"(There were) several times with my clients when my associate Lakeisha Murdaugh said 'he's asleep, he's asleep,'" King said Tuesday evening.

The attorney added that he heard people in the audience talk during breaks about seeing the judge nod off.

King said it's important for a judge to be aware of everything that's going on during a trial so that he can properly rule on any objections, requests to submit evidence, jury instructions and more.

"This is not pleasant for me to bring up, and I've known Judge Lozano since before he was a judge," he said. "But I have to represent my clients, and I think that due process requires a judge that's fully alert and engaged during the entire process."

He added that although the parties can go back and look at the transcript, that doesn't catch how a witness sounded or looked, for instance.

King said the most egregious moment happened toward the end of the case. The government had made an objection, King responded and the judge, who was looking down, did not appear to hear. King called for a sealed hearing at that point.

The attorneys also argued that Lozano should be removed because he cannot make an impartial ruling on the motion for a new trial, noting that he denied during the trial to have been asleep.

The third motion asks that security video feed from the trial be preserved as evidence of whether the judge slept during the trial and, if so, how much.

King said because he was focused on the case during the trial, he doesn't know how often the judge slept, which is part of the problem because he doesn't know just how much Lozano missed.

"I honestly don't know," he said.

Federal attorneys argued during the trial that the Soderquists used money from his campaign election fund and the city's food pantry to pay for more than 50 gambling trips from 2010 to 2012 to the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich. The jury agreed, finding them guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of lying on their income tax returns. Soderquist was automatically removed from office when he was found guilty.

The Soderquists still have a second trial coming up in a separate case. Deborah Soderquist's daughter, Miranda Brakley, is charged with stealing money from the city when she worked there as a court clerk, and the Soderquists are accused of helping her hide the crime. All three have pleaded not guilty in that case.

Lozano is also overseeing that case, and King said Tuesday he did not know yet whether they would also ask for a new judge in that case.












Soderquists' attorneys file motion for new trial
NWI Times
September 22, 2015

HAMMOND | The attorneys for former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, are seeking a new trial on their behalf claiming the federal judge presiding over their case was asleep during portions of their trial.

"The 'interest of justice' requires a new trial because there were a number of occasions when during the trial of this case where the presiding District Judge was observed to have been asleep," said the motion for a new trial. "The defendants submit that these incidents prejudiced their right to a fair trial and to Due Process of Law."

The motion, signed by attorneys Scott King and Lakeisha Murdaugh, was filed Tuesday. U.S. District Senior Judge Rudy Lozano presided over the Soderquist's case.

On Wednesday, Lozano signed an order taking under advisement the defense attorneys' motion for a new trial and a change of judge. The government has until Sept. 28th to respond to the motions.

According to a memorandum of law contained within the filing, the attorneys said "the defendants made a record of two (2) occasions during their trial that the District Judge appeared to be asleep during the presentation of the evidence. The defendants have simultaneously with the filing of this Motion, filed a Motion to Preserve video security surveillance evidence of the courtroom that the trial was conducted in in order to determine if said evidence provides visual proof of the presiding District Judge sleeping at other points in the trial."

The memorandum said the defendants are prepared to present additional evidence regarding observations of Lozano sleeping at various times during the trial. The attorneys also filed a change of judge motion stating that on two occasions during the trial they informed the judge he appeared to be asleep and the judge stated he was not asleep.

Lozano Wednesday granted the defense motion to preserve evidence and ordered the U.S. Marshals Service to preserve surveillance recordings made of the courtroom during the trial.

Jurors on Sept. 11 found the Soderquists guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of false filing. They were accused of improperly using funds from Soderquist's campaign fund and the city's food pantry account to gamble.

King said after the trial that he planned to appeal. He said at the time there were things that happened at the trial that he has never seen before in his career. At the time, he said the motion would address several issues but did not elaborate. 












New Lake Station food pantry close to opening soon after Soderquists' conviction
September 18, 2015 - 4:15 PM
Chicago Tribune


A large portion of former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist's public corruption trial earlier this month focused on how he and his wife raided the city's food pantry bank accounts to pay for their gambling trips.

That's why Amelia Lara wants people to know that the new food pantry coming to Lake Station has no connections to the city's government.

"We will not let two corrupt individuals of the city ruin what the citizens of Lake Station deserve," Lara said.

A federal jury found the former mayor and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, guilty earlier this month of wire fraud, and multiple counts of wire fraud and filing a false income tax return for using his campaign money and money meant for the Lake Station Food Pantry to pay for more than 50 gambling trips. Soderquist was automatically removed from office by state law once he was found guilty.

Lara, who works as director of volunteers for the Portage Township Food Pantry but lives in Lake Station, attended the trial and heard all the testimony about how the Soderquists kept control of the pantry's finances between just themselves and used an ATM debit card to take cash out from the pantry's bank account.

Lara has paid attention to the case since the Soderquists were indicted in April 2014 and said she started making plans for a new food pantry for her city soon after.

Since then, she's teamed up with First Baptist Church of Hammond, which will host the pantry. The church, which has run an emergency food pantry for 40 year, is trying to get the pantry up and running by the end of October, if not sooner, Pastor David Nykamp said.

The church has looked for ways to become more involved in the Lake Station community during the past few years, so when he met Lara several months ago, Nykamp said, he was immediately on board.

"It was kind of like it was meant to be," Nykamp said, saying he then advocated for the food pantry with his church members.

The process has involved applying to the NWI Food Bank, which helps provide food and other services to food pantries in Lake and Porter counties. NWI Food Bank officials have to inspect the new food pantry to make sure it meets various health and safety requirements, such as keeping food six inches off the ground, having a pest control plan in place and making sure coolers are at the right temperature.

Lara, who is serving as an adviser, knows the food bank could struggle with bad perceptions after the Soderquist trial.

"We have to assure them that we are not part of the city (government)," she said.

To help combat any negative perceptions, they're taking steps to reassure the community. That includes keeping the food pantry's financial records open to the public and requiring two signatures on checks, Lara said.

"It's very transparent," she said.

Nykamp said he's encouraged by the help the pantry has already received and that several businesses have said they will help out once it gets started.

"Actually, it's been amazing, the outpour," he said, adding that people brought donations during the city's Septemberfest festival. "It was amazing how many brought food for that."

The city's food pantry, which was started by former Mayor Shirley Wadding and then ran by Soderquist and his wife, is still open, although to what extent was not clear. Interim Mayor John McDaniel could not be reached for comment; nor could a representative with the NWI Food bank.

However, Nykamp said he has no problem with the city's pantry and his church both operating, pointing to the number of residents struggling to pay their bills and still have money left over for food. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 21.5 percent of Lake Station residents live below the poverty level, compared to a statewide average of 15.4 percent.

"I'll be honest, I think we're going to be overwhelmed with the need here," he said. "I hope that the city will keep the other pantry open as well."

He added that although the plan at the start is to have the pantry open two days a month, he anticipates it won't be long before they offer more hours. A set schedule has not been decided yet, he said.

Lara voiced concerns about a city-run pantry, however, saying it should instead be run by the community as a whole. Lara said she's heard from most of the candidates seeking city seats in the general election this November and that she wants to stress to them they should volunteer and donate personally, not as a public official.

She rejoiced when the jury returned a guilty verdict.

"I feel like the justice system served the citizens of Lake Station fairly, equally and proudly," she said. "I was probably the happiest when I heard the jury speak loudly that we will not tolerate this behavior."












Lake Station dealing with 'overwhelming' situation
NWI Times
September 17, 2015 9:30 pm
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/lake-station-dealing-with-overwhelming-situation/article_9e582d9f-9613-5bfc-b0fb-5c5778be7ec1.html

LAKE STATION | The recent conviction of former Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife has tarnished Lake Station’s reputation, but city leaders see a brighter future ahead of them.

During Thursday’s City Council meeting, city officials offered residents words of encouragement and urged more involvement in the community.

“The cloud is kind of breaking up over our city,” Councilman Rick Long said, “With time, it will be gone.”

City Council President John McDaniel is currently handling the mayor’s duties.

McDaniel, who also serves as the Police Department’s assistant chief, said the situation is “overwhelming,” but he is receiving help along the way.

Long said he other councilmen are trying to “pitch in and help as much as we can.”

McDaniel said the conviction of the Soderquists has created a “black eye” on the city.

“We have to move forward,” he said.

McDaniel said he and other city leaders now are trying to reestablish trust at City Hall.

“We’ll be accountable for you,” he told residents.

McDaniel and Long each asked residents to continue to attend council meetings and become more involved in the city.

McDaniel will continue to be responsible for the mayor's duties until the Democratic Party holds a caucus to select someone to finish Soderquist’s term. McDaniel said the caucus is expected to occur at the end of the month, but he isn’t aware of anyone who has filed to fulfill the remainder of the term, which finishes at the end of the year.

If resident Joseph Castellanos has his way, McDaniel will be the person to do that.

Castellanos, who won the Democratic nomination for the city’s clerk-treasurer post in the May primary, told McDaniel he supports him “100 percent.”

“I hope you stay until the end of the year,” Castellanos said.

A U.S. District Court jury convicted Soderquist and his wife of conspiracy, wire fraud and filing false income tax returns on evidence they improperly withdrew money contributed to his political campaign and a city food pantry and gambled at area casinos, losing more than $100,000.

They claimed they only lost their personal funds. Their attorney plans to appeal the conviction.













Democrats to pick Lake Station interim mayor after incumbent found guilty of wire fraud
September 15, 2015 - 7:58 AM

The Lake County Democratic Party will move to replace former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist by the end of the month.

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, who heads the county party, said he set the caucus election to replace Soderquist for Sept. 28.

"I want to do this as rapid as possible to get this thing over with to eliminate any confusion," Buncich said Monday.

A federal jury found the former mayor and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, guilty late Friday evening of using his campaign money and money meant for the Lake Station Food Pantry to pay for more than 50 gambling trips. Soderquist was automatically removed from office by state law once he was found guilty.

Buncich said that the head of the Lake Station City Council, John McDaniel, will act as mayor until Democratic precinct committee members can vote Sept. 28.

Buncich said one possible replacement could be former Lake Station Judge Christopher Anderson, who defeated Soderquist for the Democratic nomination for mayor in May and will go up against Republican Ed Peralta during the general election in November. However, Buncich said he has not spoken with Anderson yet or heard from any other possible candidates.

"Everything right now is up in the air," he said.

Whoever wins the election this month would remain mayor until January, when the winner in the November election will take office.

Soderquist is the latest in a long line of Lake County politicians to be convicted in a public corruption cases. Others include former Lake County surveyor George Van Til, former Gary City Councilwoman Marilyn Krusas and former East Chicago Mayor George Pabey.

"What can I say, it's just another black eye on politics in Lake County, and we're trying to overcome this nonsense," Buncich said.

Buncich added that he's made it a priority to stress ethics in his party since he took over as party chairman.

"If you want to play around, you're not going to be part of the party," he said.












Lake Station mayoral nominee doesn't want job — yet
NWI Times
September 15, 2015 - 7:00 AM

LAKE STATION | Christopher A. Anderson could be mayor before the end of this month, but isn't ready for the prize he long has sought.

After winning one of the hardest-fought mayoral campaigns this year, the 36-year-old attorney was handed a political windfall other Lake politicians can only dream about when a federal jury removed former Mayor Keith Soderquist from office Friday for political corruption.

Any city Democrat can compete before an upcoming party caucus to serve the last three and a half months of Soderquist's unexpired term. Local and county Democratic leaders said Monday the job is Anderson's for the taking.

Monday, Anderson demurred. "If I had to make a decision today I would say there is no way that can happen," he said.

He said he won't dump his law clients on short notice. "I'm a solo practicing attorney, and it's my sole source of income. I don't think it would be right if I took the position knowing I wouldn't be able to be a full-time mayor for the next couple of months.

He said his Republican opponent, Edward "Ed" Peralta, won't concede the office to him, either. "I still have an election in November. A lot of people say it should be an easy election. I'm not treating it that way. I want to campaign," Anderson said.

Lake Sheriff John Buncich, the county Democratic party chairman; Ed Grinder, the city's Democratic chairman; and Lake Station Clerk Brenda Samuels endorsed Anderson for the job. "The people wanted him. He is the obvious solution," Samuels said.

Lake Auditor John Petalas, a veteran of county politics, said he cannot remember anyone turning down an office being handed to them on a silver platter. "Most politicians would say, hell yes, because they can run as an incumbent."

Anderson said, "This puts me in a very difficult predicament. I haven't completely made up my mind. I had earlier today, but then then I talked with someone, and I might go back to revisit the question. But I don't feel it would be right to say I can do it and not be there half the time. I have to call it a long shot."

It leaves the city of Lake Station in a dilemma too, since someone has to finish out the year as mayor. City Council President John McDaniel has stepped into the mayor's duties until the Democratic party holds a caucus within 30 days. Buncich said a date for the caucus will be fixed by next week.

Anderson said he has heard both McDaniel and City Councilman Rick Long may be interested in running for the job of interim mayor. Neither men could be reached for comment, and calls into the mayor's office Monday went unanswered.

Anderson burst into local politics during his 2008 election as city judge. He said he and Mayor Keith Soderquist became political enemies in 2012 after he fired the mayor's stepdaughter over missing court bond money.

City and party officials attempted to abolish Anderson's court and remove Anderson from office on grounds he didn't live within city limits. Both efforts failed. Anderson announced last January he would run for mayor and won a landslide victory over Soderquist in last May's primary.

A U.S. District Court jury convicted Soderquist and his wife Friday of conspiracy, wire fraud and filing false income tax returns on evidence they improperly withdrew money contributed to his political campaign and a city food pantry and gambled at area casinos, losing more than $100,000.

They claimed they only lost their their personal funds. Their attorney plans to appeal the conviction, although Keith Soderquist is unlikely to regain office before his term expires at the end of the year.












Soderquist successor to be chosen soon
By: Lakeshore Public Media Staff
September 14, 2015


LAKE STATION — By this time next month — a group of Democratic Party precinct committee-members in Lake Station will choose someone to be Mayor until the end of the year.  That person could be Chris Anderson, the city judge who defeated Mayor Keith Soderquist in the May primary election.  Anderson faces Republican Edward Peralta in the upcoming election.

Until a new mayor is appointed, City Council President Pro Tem — and assistant police chief — John McDaniel will oversee the city administration.

A federal court jury convicted Soderquist and his wife Deborah of several felony charges related to their use of campaign and city food pantry funds to pay off gambling debts.  The couple’s attorney — Scott King — says he will seek a new trial for the Soderquists.

Council at-large member Todd Lara says the Soderquist administration had some big accomplishments, including securing millions in federal funding, cleaning up the lakefront and creating about 20 jobs in municipal water and garbage collection.  But the federal charges against the Mayor and his wife are again reminiscent of the public corruption problems that have historically plagued northwest Indiana municipal governments.  Councilman Lara hopes the conviction won’t shape how people see Lake Station.  He says everyone he’s met is hard-working and cares about their community.

One resident said he suspected the worst as the federal court trial came to a conclusion.  He said that Soderquist had a gambling problem that, like one with alcohol or drugs, can get away from you.  Even Soderquist admitted on the witness stand that he had a problem, although he stopped short of calling it an addiction.












Lake Station Mayor And Wife Convicted On All Charges
September 13, 2015 9:15 PM 
WBIW News

(HAMMOND) - A federal jury has convicted a northwestern Indiana mayor and his wife of wire fraud and other charges for improperly using funds from his campaign and his city's food pantry.

The jury deliberated five hours Friday before finding Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, guilty of conspiracy, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing false income tax returns.

Prosecutors argued the couple made more than 40 ATM withdrawals from the campaign and food pantry accounts within 24 hours of visiting casinos from 2010 to 2012.

Defense attorney Scott King said his clients were victims of a witch hunt and he plans to seek a new trial.

Under state law, Soderquist forfeits his position as mayor of the city of 13,000 east of Gary.












Northwestern Indiana mayor, wife convicted of all charges
Posted: Sunday, September 13, 2015 12:00 am
The Messenger

HAMMOND, Ind. — A federal jury has convicted a northwestern Indiana mayor and his wife of wire fraud and other charges for improperly using food pantry and campaign funds.

 First United Home Equity 300 x250Messenger Digital Access

The jury deliberated for five hours Friday before finding Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, guilty of conspiracy, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing false income tax returns.

Assistant U.S. attorneys Joshua Kolar and Philip Benson argued in closing statements that Soderquist and his wife lied to campaign donors and the Lake Station Food Pantry when they used those funds to pay for more than 50 gambling trips they took from 2010 through 2012. They also failed to report that money as income on their income tax returns.

"The evidence shows you are a thief, Mr. Soderquist," Benson said.

Prosecutors said the couple lost more than $100,000 gambling between 2009 and 2012.

Soderquist testified that the withdrawals from his campaign fund were for expenses included paying poll workers, phone bills and mileage during his mayoral or city council campaigns going back to 1999.

He said he meant to amend his campaign reports to include the expenses but procrastinated.

"That was the convenient way to take cash out of the committee to pay me back for my expenses," he said.

After the verdicts were read, the couple made no public statements but their attorney spoke to reporters.

"We're very disappointed," attorney Scott King said. He said he plans to seek a new trial.

Deborah Soderquist was her husband's administrative assistant and was allegedly involved in the operation of the food pantry. She also served as treasurer of her husband's election campaign committee.

Judge Rudy Lozano set a Dec. 15 sentencing hearing for the Soderquists.

As a result of his convictions, under state law, Soderquist forfeited his position as mayor of the city of 13,000 east of Gary.












Soderquist conviction 'sad for the city'
September 12, 2015 - 9:00 PM
NWI Times

LAKE STATION | Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist's conviction on multiple felony charges reinforces the region's reputation for political corruption and tarnishes the image of a city that's been making positive strides, residents and officials said.

"This overshadows all the positives the community has going for it," said resident Bill Carroll, who moved to Lake Station two years ago. "It's demolished by the former mayor's wrongdoings. ... He betrayed the public trust. How could anyone not think that after a jury of his peers found him guilty?"

Under Indiana law, Soderquist was removed from office the moment the U.S. District Court jury announced it found him and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of false filing. He did not return a message left Saturday.

"I'm glad to see him go because he became very arrogant and aggressive," Carroll said. "After they announced the charges, he didn't take time to talk and listen to the people. He really hid from the public."

Lake County's reputation for crooked politicians only gets worse every time someone like Soderquist or former Lake County Clerk Thomas Philpot gets convicted, Carroll said. But the damage is especially bad for Lake Station, which has long suffered a stigma as an impoverished city with high unemployment, he said.

"Everyone I've met in Lake Station is hardworking and dedicated to their family and community," he said. "There are positives like a younger, more educated demographic coming in. But a scandal like this just hurts everything."

The conviction is sad for the city, but change is coming and a new administration will take office in January, City Council At-large member Todd Lara said. Democrat Chris Anderson, who defeated Soderquist in the May primary, and Republican Edward Peralta will square off in the November election.

A caucus of Democratic precinct committeemen must choose a new mayor within 30 days, and Anderson would be the common sense choice since he would take office anyway in January if he wins in the heavily Democratic-skewing city, Lara said.

Until a new mayor is appointed, City Council President Pro Tem John McDaniel will oversee the city administration. He may need to take leave from his position as assistant police chief.

"It will not affect city operations," Lara said. "There are good people there doing their jobs."

Soderquist had some accomplishments as mayor, including securing millions in federal funding, cleaning up the lakefront and creating about 20 jobs in municipal water and garbage collection, Lara said. But he thinks all of that will be overshadowed by the ex-mayor's conviction for stealing from a food pantry and his campaign fund after racking up more than $100,000 in gambling debts.

"I wasn't a (Bill) Clinton supporter, but at the time he was a great president," he said. "But he's not remembered for the good he did. In today's society, you're remembered for the last thing he did."

Lara hopes the conviction won't shape how people see Lake Station.

"We've always had an image problem, but we're proving we're not the city to be kicked around," he said. "This is a major setback."

The Soderquists' attorney, Scott King, said he plans to ask for a new trial.












Northwestern Indiana mayor, wife convicted of all charges
Posted: Saturday, September 12, 2015 6:36 pm
Kokomo Tribune
http://www.kokomotribune.com/news/state_news/northwestern-indiana-mayor-wife-convicted-of-all-charges/article_0a7fb078-77fd-5897-8c7c-69e42a56776b.html

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) — A federal jury has convicted a northwestern Indiana mayor and his wife of wire fraud and other charges for improperly using food pantry and campaign funds.

The jury deliberated for five hours Friday before finding Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, guilty of conspiracy, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing false income tax returns.

Assistant U.S. attorneys Joshua Kolar and Philip Benson argued in closing statements that Soderquist and his wife lied to campaign donors and the Lake Station Food Pantry when they used those funds to pay for more than 50 gambling trips they took from 2010 through 2012. They also failed to report that money as income on their income tax returns.

"The evidence shows you are a thief, Mr. Soderquist," Benson said.

Prosecutors said the couple lost more than $100,000 gambling between 2009 and 2012.

Soderquist testified that the withdrawals from his campaign fund were for expenses included paying poll workers, phone bills and mileage during his mayoral or city council campaigns going back to 1999. He said he meant to amend his campaign reports to include the expenses but procrastinated.

"That was the convenient way to take cash out of the committee to pay me back for my expenses," he said.

After the verdicts were read, the couple made no public statements but their attorney spoke to reporters.

"We're very disappointed," attorney Scott King said. He said he plans to seek a new trial.

Deborah Soderquist was her husband's administrative assistant and was allegedly involved in the operation of the food pantry. She also served as treasurer of her husband's election campaign committee.

Judge Rudy Lozano set a Dec. 15 sentencing hearing for the Soderquists.

As a result of his convictions, under state law, Soderquist forfeited his position as mayor of the city of 13,000 east of Gary.












Northwestern Indiana mayor, wife convicted of all charges
Posted: Sep 12, 2015 5:19 PM CDT
By The Associated Press
WTHR News

HAMMOND, Ind. -A federal jury has convicted a northwestern Indiana mayor and his wife of wire fraud and other charges for improperly using funds from his campaign and his city's food pantry.

The jury deliberated five hours Friday before finding Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, guilty of conspiracy, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing false income tax returns.

Prosecutors argued the couple made more than 40 ATM withdrawals from the campaign and food pantry accounts within 24 hours of visiting casinos from 2010 to 2012.

Defense attorney Scott King said his clients were victims of a witch hunt and he plans to seek a new trial.

Under state law, Soderquist forfeits his position as mayor of the city of 13,000 east of Gary.












Bar patrons saw end for Soderquist as trial began
Chicago Tribune
September 12, 2015 - 2:36 PM


Like many Lake Station residents, patrons of T.J. Norton's Bar and Grill on Central Avenue in paid attention to the public corruption trial of Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah.

All of the speculation and debate of guilt or innocence ended late Friday with 11 guilty verdicts: one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing a false income tax return.

But for T.J. Norton's customers, the evidence was overwhelming as the trial got started the first week of September.

"He got his hand caught in the cookie jar," said Jim Low, of Portage. "And it makes us proud to see us on the Chicago news every day."

Terry Shaw, also of Portage but originally from Lake Station, said then he's known the mayor for at least 30 years. He's never spoken to the mayor about the allegations, preferring to keep recent conversations to business.

Still, he suspected the worst.

"I think he's just got a gambling problem," Shaw said. "And like drinking or drugs, it can get away from you.

"He did a good job in the city, but now, they've followed him too hard and too long to not have anything against him. I figured he would have a plea deal, cut the deal and go."

The trial at the federal courthouse in Hammond, which ended Friday after about five hours of jury deliberation, was built on the Soderquists' use of campaign funds and personal use of the city's food pantry funds.

The federal prosecutors argued that Soderquist and his wife lied to people who donated to the mayor's campaign fund and the Lake Station Food Pantry when they used those funds to pay for more than 50 gambling trips they took from 2010 through 2012 and then failed to report that money as income on their income tax returns.

Even with the allegations, the men at Norton's were surprised Soderquist continued his primary campaign in May to be the Lake Station Dems nominee for mayor. He lost handily to Lake Station Judge Chris Anderson.

"The FBI trucks were down there two, three times. He didn't think we saw it?" Shaw said. "Did he not think we read the paper?"

Another patron, who goes by "Music Bob," said he hasn't paid much attention to the trial details but did compliment Soderquist on his leadership.

"He's done some good things, like the Police and Fire Station down there (on Central)" Bob, of Hobart, said. "He deserves whatever he gets. If he's guilty, burn him. If he's not, let him go."

Reesee Battie, a Hobart resident who works at Johnson's Fish and Shrimp, said she's been talking about the case with a friend who works for an attorney. She thinks the evidence against Soderquist is air-tight.

"He's on tape, you know what I mean? He's absolutely guilty," Battie said.












Northwestern Indiana mayor, wife convicted of all charges
Posted: Saturday, September 12, 2015 2:26 pm
Tribune Star - Terre Haute, IN
http://www.tribstar.com/news/indiana_news/northwestern-indiana-mayor-wife-convicted-of-all-charges/article_583dca8a-a69f-5bcf-bb12-e74f66b124b6.html
A federal jury has convicted a northwestern Indiana mayor and his wife of wire fraud and other charges for improperly using food pantry and campaign funds.

The jury deliberated for five hours Friday before finding Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, guilty of conspiracy, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing false income tax returns.

Assistant U.S. attorneys Joshua Kolar and Philip Benson argued in closing statements that Soderquist and his wife lied to campaign donors and the Lake Station Food Pantry when they used those funds to pay for more than 50 gambling trips they took from 2010 through 2012. 

They also failed to report that money as income on their income tax returns.

"The evidence shows you are a thief, Mr. Soderquist," Benson said.

Prosecutors said the couple lost more than $100,000 gambling between 2009 and 2012.

Soderquist testified that the withdrawals from his campaign fund were for expenses included paying poll workers, phone bills and mileage during his mayoral or city council campaigns going back to 1999. He said he meant to amend his campaign reports to include the expenses but procrastinated.

"That was the convenient way to take cash out of the committee to pay me back for my expenses," he said.

After the verdicts were read, the couple made no public statements but their attorney spoke to reporters.

"We're very disappointed," attorney Scott King said. He said he plans to seek a new trial.












Northwestern Indiana mayor, wife convicted of all charges
Posted: 2:09 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015
WHIO News

HAMMOND, Ind. — A federal jury has convicted a northwestern Indiana mayor and his wife of wire fraud and other charges for improperly using food pantry and campaign funds.

The jury deliberated for five hours Friday before finding Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, guilty of conspiracy, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing false income tax returns.

Assistant U.S. attorneys Joshua Kolar and Philip Benson argued in closing statements that Soderquist and his wife lied to campaign donors and the Lake Station Food Pantry when they used those funds to pay for more than 50 gambling trips they took from 2010 through 2012. They also failed to report that money as income on their income tax returns.

"The evidence shows you are a thief, Mr. Soderquist," Benson said.

Prosecutors said the couple lost more than $100,000 gambling between 2009 and 2012.

Soderquist testified that the withdrawals from his campaign fund were for expenses included paying poll workers, phone bills and mileage during his mayoral or city council campaigns going back to 1999. He said he meant to amend his campaign reports to include the expenses but procrastinated.

"That was the convenient way to take cash out of the committee to pay me back for my expenses," he said.

After the verdicts were read, the couple made no public statements but their attorney spoke to reporters.

"We're very disappointed," attorney Scott King said. He said he plans to seek a new trial.

Deborah Soderquist was her husband's administrative assistant and was allegedly involved in the operation of the food pantry. She also served as treasurer of her husband's election campaign committee.

Judge Rudy Lozano set a Dec. 15 sentencing hearing for the Soderquists.












Northwestern Indiana mayor, wife convicted of all charges
Posted: Sep 12, 2015 11:50 AM CDT
FOX 19 News

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) - A federal jury has convicted a northwestern Indiana mayor and his wife of wire fraud and other charges for improperly using funds from his campaign and his city's food pantry.

The jury deliberated five hours Friday before finding Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, guilty of conspiracy, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing false income tax returns.

Prosecutors argued the couple made more than 40 ATM withdrawals from the campaign and food pantry accounts within 24 hours of visiting casinos from 2010 to 2012.

Defense attorney Scott King said his clients were victims of a witch hunt and he plans to seek a new trial.

Under state law, Soderquist forfeits his position as mayor of the city of 13,000 east of Gary.












BREAKING: Jury: Soderquists guilty on all counts
September 11, 2015 - 11:00 PM
NWI Times


HAMMOND | A U.S. District Court jury found Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife guilty of improperly using funds from his campaign and the city's food pantry.

Jurors deliberated for about five hours late Friday before finding Keith Soderquist and Deborah Soderquist guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of false filing. The couple, sandwiched by their attorneys, did not say anything.

Defense attorney Scott King said he was disappointed in the verdicts and he plans to file a motion for a new trial.

He said there were things that happened during the trial that he has never seen before in his career. He said the motion will address several issues but did not detail the problems.

About a dozen Lake Station residents in the gallery shook the hands with assistant U.S. attorneys after U.S. District Senior Judge Rudy Lozano set a Dec. 15 sentencing hearing for the Soderquists.

Under a 2008 state law, Soderquist immediately forfeits his position as Lake Station mayor the minute his conviction for a felony was announced by the jury.

A caucus of Lake Station Democratic precinct committeemen must now meet within 30 days to elect a new mayor who will finish the few months remaining in Soderquist's term.

If Soderquist appeals his conviction, and wins, he would be entitled to back pay, but likely could not reclaim the mayor's office since his term is expected to expire before his appeal is decided.

The removal law was sponsored by state Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, and state Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, after Lake County Councilman Will Smith Jr. was convicted in 2007 of cheating on his income taxes and refused to resign until shortly before his 2008 sentencing.

The law was used in 2010 to force East Chicago Mayor George Pabey from office after he was found guilty of using city workers to remodel a house he owned in Gary.

Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White also automatically lost his position as the state's chief elections officer in 2012 after he was convicted of voter fraud.

EARLIER  FRIDAY
During closing statements earlier Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Kolar painted a picture of the Soderquists' actions as they frequented a casino in January 2011. 

Kolar said the Soderquists withdrew $300 from a campaign account just before their player cards placed them at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich. After losing a little more than that amount, a $400 ATM withdrawal from the food pantry account was was made at 5:54 p.m. in Michigan City.

By 6:14 p.m., their player cards were being used again in the casino.

“They’re gambling until 10:40 at night after they took money from the food pantry account,” Kolar said. “What does that tell you?”

Kolar pointed to this day as an example of how the couple allegedly improperly took money from the campaign fund and food pantry while at the same time losing more than $100,000 at area casinos. 

The money the couple lost from 2009 to 2012 was the result of slot machine play, according to records shown during the trial. During that period, $35,304.25 in ATM withdrawals were made from the campaign fund and $5,040 in such withdrawals were made from the food pantry account.

IRS Special Agent Steve Martinez previously testified the $300 ATM withdrawal from the campaign Kolar referenced was later alleged by the Soderquists to have been a donation from his campaign to the Special Olympics of Indiana. The alleged donation did not show up in the organization’s records. Instead, the organization’s records showed the campaign made a $50 donation in March 2011.

Kolar argued details such as not using the ATM inside the casino and having sole control over accounts were evidence of the couple concealing their activity.

However, defense attorney Scott King argued the case against his clients was more about politics than finances. He said the government had the perception since the federal investigation began that they wanted to, “convict us a mayor from Lake County.”

He said the evidence amounted to gambling or filling out forms wrong, not criminal charges. He questioned why the government didn’t examine campaign records dating back to 1999 when Soderquist’s political career began.

Soderquist has served as mayor since 2008 and prior to that served on the city council. He ran for a third term as mayor this year but was defeated in the Democratic primary.

Deborah Soderquist was her husband’s administrative assistant and was allegedly involved in the operation of the food pantry. She also served as treasurer of her husband’s election campaign committee.

King said Soderquist and his wife funded much of those early campaigns, but it wasn’t until the couple began having financial hurdles that they sought the reimbursements. He argued the ATM withdrawals the government questioned were for legitimate reimbursements related the campaign and food pantry.

When Keith Soderquist took the stand to defend himself and his wife, he told jurors they often waited until the last minute to file campaign expense reports. King said his clients meant to amend the campaign finance reports but they never did.

“Making bad judgment, being negligent is not a crime,” he said. “If not, we would all be criminals.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson told jurors it didn’t matter that Soderquist was a mayor, but also told them the case was about the loss of trust people put in others. He argued the campaign finance reports were a misrepresentation to the public who have the right to see how candidates are spending money.

In response to Soderquist’s explanation for the reports, he argued it equated to him saying he was above the law.

Benson reminded jurors of a bank account Keith Soderquist opened in 2008 to benefit flood victims, which later raised $2,236. Showing a copy of bank records, he said the money was transferred in 2010 to the Lake Station Food Pantry account.

He reminded jurors Deborah Soderquist controlled that account and told them the evidence shows what later happened to those funds.

“I believe the evidence shows, Mr. Soderquist, you are a thief,” Benson said. “Mrs. Soderquist, you are a thief.”













Jury finds Lake Station mayor, wife guilty in federal trial
September 11, 2015 - 10:48 PM
Chicago Tribune

A federal jury found Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife guilty late Friday night of all charges, including wire fraud and filing false income tax returns.

The jury deliberated for more than four hours before finding the mayor and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, guilty on all charges. About 15 people remained in the courtroom as the verdict was read Friday night, and some applauded and later shook hands with prosecutors.

"We're very disappointed by the verdict," defense attorney Scott King said. "There were things that happened on this trial that were somewhat remarkable in my 39-year-career."

The Soderquists each were charged with one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing a false income tax return.

Attorneys finished giving closing arguments in the mayor's trial Friday afternoon. And, the jury began deliberations after the trial, which was originally expected to last four to five days, ended after eight days of jury selection and testimony.

Assistant U.S. attorneys Joshua Kolar and Philip Benson argued that Soderquist and his wife lied to people who donated to the mayor's campaign fund and the Lake Station Food Pantry when they used those funds to pay for more than 50 gambling trips they took from 2010 through 2012 and then failed to report that money as income on their income tax returns.

"I believe that the evidence shows you are a thief, Mr. Soderquist," Benson said.

Kolar connected evidence shown during the trial that he argued proved the government's case, including cellphone records that put the Soderquists near ATMs when withdrawals were made from the campaign and food pantry accounts and at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich., soon after.

He focused on one day in particular, Jan. 29, 2011, which was just a few weeks after they made the first ATM withdrawals from the food pantry accounts. Records showed that $300 was taken out of the campaign account at a Lake Station ATM at 2:10 p.m. and that they were then using their players cards at Four Winds 35 minutes later. Activity on their cards stopped a few hours later, and then about 30 minutes after that a withdrawal of $400 was made from the food pantry account at a Michigan City ATM. About 20 minutes later, their cards showed gambling activity again.

"What does that tell you about their state of mind?" Kolar asked the jury, arguing that the Soderquists made it a point to not use the campaign and food pantry ATM cards at the casino to help hide their crimes.

He also argued that they took other steps to hide their crime, including not reporting the withdrawals from the campaign on Keith Soderquist's campaign finance reports, never using checks, taking sole control over the two funds and filing false income tax returns.

"It's income, they're taking it, they're using it," Kolar said. "Are they reporting it? No."

But King argued the case was about perceptions and that the government's perception was one of a witch hunt.

"The government's perception in this case … when they began investigating this case was 'we got us a Lake County mayor,'" King argued.

He insisted the government has ignored evidence to support this case, including expenses that King says the Soderquists paid out of their own pockets for the mayor's various election races, specifically his first two City Council races. The Soderquists claim the money they took from the two funds was reimbursement for expenses.

King admitted that the Soderquists failed to report these expenses as paid reimbursements on their finance reports but attributed that to procrastination.

As for not using the ATM at the casino, King referred to the mayor's testimony when he said that they didn't do that because of the perception that could create.

"It's ironic that they have missed the point," King said of the government. "It had everything to do with protecting political perception."

After the verdict Friday, King vowed to ask the judge for a new trial within the next two weeks. King declined to offer specifics, but said his motion will speak for itself.

Benson disputed King's statements, arguing that it's not the government's fault the Soderquists are standing trial, adding that prosecutors didn't care if Soderquist was mayor or not.

"This isn't about a mayor; it's about anybody who puts trust in another person and has that trust ripped from them," Benson said.

He did argue, however, that it's especially important for people to be able to trust politicians when they go to vote and that the financial forms are an important part of that.

"That's the whole point of those forms, so you can't do crap like that," Benson shouted, pointing at the defendants.

Benson also pointed to an account that people donated more than $2,000 to after floods hit the city in September 2008 and left some homeless, sleeping on cots at the city's community center.

The money sat in the account for 18 months before it was transferred to the food pantry account.

"Why wasn't a single penny given to the people sleeping on the cots?" Benson asked.












UPDATE: Jury begins deliberations in Soderquist trial
September 11, 2015 - 7:00 PM
NWI Times

HAMMOND | In late January 2011, federal records show Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife spent nearly an entire Saturday gambling at an area casino when ATM withdrawals were made from campaign and food pantry accounts.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Kolar said Friday during his closing statements that the Soderquists withdrew $300 from the campaign account just before their player cards placed them at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich. After losing a little more than that amount, a $400 ATM withdrawal from the food pantry account was was made at 5:54 p.m. in Michigan City.

By 6:14 p.m., their player cards were being used again in the casino.

“They’re gambling until 10:40 at night after they took money from the food pantry account,” Kolar said. “What does that tell you?”

Kolar pointed to this day as an example of how the couple allegedly improperly took money from the campaign fund and food pantry while at the same time losing more than $100,000 at area casinos. A U.S. District jury began deliberating Friday afternoon if that activity warranted convictions on federal charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of false filing.

The money the couple lost from 2009 to 2012 was the result of slot machine play, according to records shown during the trial. During that period, $35,304.25 in ATM withdrawals were made from the campaign fund and $5,040 in such withdrawals were made from the food pantry account.

IRS Special Agent Steve Martinez previously testified the $300 ATM withdrawal from the campaign Kolar referenced was later alleged by the Soderquists to have been a donation from his campaign to the Special Olympics of Indiana. The alleged donation did not show up in the organization’s records. Instead, the organization’s records showed the campaign made a $50 donation in March 2011.

Kolar argued details such as not using the ATM inside the casino and having sole control over accounts were evidence of the couple concealing their activity.

However, defense attorney Scott King argued the case against his clients was more about politics than finances. He said the government had the perception since the federal investigation began that they wanted to, “convict us a mayor from Lake County.”

He said the evidence amounted to gambling or filling out forms wrong, not criminal charges. He questioned why the government didn’t examine campaign records dating back to 1999 when Soderquist’s political career began.

Soderquist has served as mayor since 2008 and prior to that served on the city council. He ran for a third term as mayor this year but was defeated in the Democratic primary.

Deborah Soderquist was her husband’s administrative assistant and was allegedly involved in the operation of the food pantry. She also served as treasurer of her husband’s election campaign committee.

King said Soderquist and his wife funded much of those early campaigns, but it wasn’t until the couple began having financial hurdles that they sought the reimbursements. He argued the ATM withdrawals the government questioned were for legitimate reimbursements related the campaign and food pantry.

When Keith Soderquist took the stand to defend himself and his wife, he told jurors they often waited until the last minute to file campaign expense reports. King said his clients meant to amend the campaign finance reports but they never did.

“Making bad judgement, being negligent is not a crime,” he said. “If not, we would all be criminals.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson told jurors it didn’t matter that Soderquist was a mayor, but also told them the case was about the loss of trust people put into others. He argued the campaign finance reports were a misrepresentation to the public who have the right to see how candidates are spending money.

In response to Soderquist’s explanation for the reports, he argued it equated to him saying he was above the law.

Benson reminded jurors of a bank account Keith Soderquist opened in 2008 to benefit flood victims, which later raised $2,236. Showing a copy of bank records, he said the money was transferred in 2010 to the food pantry account.

He reminded jurors Deborah Soderquist controlled that account and told them the evidence shows what later happened to those funds.

“I believe the evidence shows, Mr. Soderquist, you are a thief,” Benson said. “Mrs. Soderquist, you are a thief.”












Jury to decide Lake Station mayor's fate
September 11, 2015 - 5:06 PM
Chicago Tribune

A federal jury will soon decide the fate of Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist after attorneys finished giving closing arguments in the mayor's trial Friday afternoon.

The jury began deliberations after the trial, which was originally expected to last four to five days, ended after eight days of jury selection and testimony.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joshua Kolar and Philip Benson argued that Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, are guilty of lying to people who donated to the mayor's campaign fund and the Lake Station Food Pantry when they used those funds to pay for more than 50 gambling trips they took from 2010 through 2012 and then failing to report that money as income on their income tax returns.

"I believe that the evidence shows you are a thief, Mr. Soderquist…." Benson said.

Kolar connected evidence shown during the trial that he argued proved the government's case, including cell phone records that put them near ATMs when withdrawals were made from the campaign and food pantry accounts and at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich., soon after.

He focused on one day in particular, Jan. 29, 2011, which was just a few weeks after they made the first ATM withdrawals from the food pantry accounts. Records showed that $300 was taken out of the campaign account at a Lake Station ATM at 2:10 p.m. and that they were then using their players cards at Four Winds 35 minutes later. Activity on their cards stopped a few hours later, and then about 30 minutes after that a withdrawal of $400 was made from the food pantry account at a Michigan City ATM. About 20 minutes later, their cards showed gambling activity again.

"What does that tell you about their state of mind?" Kolar asked the jury, arguing that the Soderquists made it a point to not use the campaign and food pantry ATM cards at the casino to help hide their crimes.

He also argued that they took other steps to hide their crime, including not reporting the withdrawals from the campaign on Soderquists campaign finance reports, never using checks, taking sole control over the two funds and filing false income tax returns.

"It's income, they're taking it, they're using it," Kolar said. "Are they reporting it? No."

But defense attorney Scott King argued the case was about perceptions and that the government's perception was one of a witch hunt.

"The government's perception in this case… when they began investigating this case was 'we got us a Lake County mayor," King argued.

He insisted the government has ignored evidence to support this case, including expenses that King says the Soderquists paid for out of their own pockets for the mayor's various election races, specifically his first two city council races. The Soderquists claim the money they took from the two funds were reimbursement for expenses.

King admitted that the Soderquists failed to report these expenses and then paid reimbursements on their finance reports but attributed to procrastination.

As for not using the ATM at the casino, King referred to the mayor's testimony when he said that they didn't do that because of the perception that could create.

"It's ironic that they have missed the point," King said of the government. "...It had everything to do with protecting political perception."

Benson disputed King's statements, arguing that it's not the government's fault the Soderquists are standing trial, adding that prosecutors didn't care if Soderquist was mayor or not.

"This isn't about a mayor; it's about anybody who puts trust in another person and has that trust ripped from them....," Benson said.

He did argue, however, that it's especially important for people to be able to trust politicians when they go to vote and that the financial forms are an important part of that.

"That's the whole point of those forms, so you can't do crap like that," Benson shouted, pointing at the defendants.

Benson also pointed to an account that people donated more than $2,000 to after floods hit the city in September 2008 and left some homeless, sleeping on cots at the city's community center.

The money sat in the account for 18 months before it was transferred to the food pantry account.

"Why wasn't a single penny given to the people sleeping on the cots?" Benson asked.












Government, defense rest in Soderquist trial
September 11, 2015 - 1:00 PM
NWI Times

HAMMOND | A U.S. District jury is expected to begin deliberating Friday afternoon the fate of Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist.

Jurors will have to decide if the couple improperly took money from campaign funds and the food pantry while losing more than $100,000 at area casinos, or if ATM withdrawals from the accounts were merely reimbursements for legitimate expenditures.

The defense and government each rested their case Friday morning following seven days of testimony. The Soderquists face charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of false filing. If convicted, they could face up to 20 years in federal prison and up to $250,000 in fines on each wire fraud charge.

The defense and government are expected to begin closing statements Friday afternoon.

After the defense rested its case Friday morning, the government called two brief rebuttal witnesses.

Lake Station resident Terry Koselke testified he has volunteered at the food pantry for years. He said Deborah Soderquist reimbursed him using checks and cash for mileage he used while picking up bread for the pantry. In 2014, Koselke said he was called to Deborah Soderquist’s office in Lake Station City Hall and asked to sign documents related to the pantry’s financial records.

The government showed him receipts for reimbursements that dated as far back as 2010. However, Koselke said he didn’t recall if the receipts had dates on them, but he told jurors he signed those receipts in 2014.

He recalled Keith Soderquist gave him a turkey or ham after he signing the receipts.

When asked by defense attorney Lakeisha Murdaugh if it was possible he was given the turkey in 2013 rather than 2014, Koselke said it was a possibility. He also said he paid no attention to the dates of the receipts he was asked to sign.

Lori Moro, the secretary for the Dollars for Scholars, program also testified about receipts she wrote for donations to the program.

IRS Special Agent Steve Martinez previously testified he excluded from his examination of Soderquist’s campaign finance records an ATM receipt for $500 alleged to have been donated to the Dollars for Scholars program. The government showed jurors the receipt that went along with the donation, which looked nearly identical to a receipt for a $500 donation from the city to the program that was made on the same day as the ATM transaction.

Moro testified Friday the receipts for the alleged donations do look identical. She didn’t recall a $500 cash donation being made, noting that most donations to the program are under $100.

Soderquist has served as mayor since 2008 and prior to that served on the City Council. Soderquist ran for a third term as mayor this year but was defeated in the Democratic primary.

His wife served as his administrative assistant and was also allegedly involved in the operation of the food pantry. She also served as treasurer of her husband’s election campaign committee.












Lake Station Mayor continues testimony at federal criminal trial
September 10, 2015 - 7:05 PM

Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist, during testimony at his federal corruption trial Thursday, blamed his own procrastination for not listing on his campaign's financial records all the money and services he claims his political operation owed him.

Soderquist took the stand in his defense for the second day in a row, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson grilled the mayor, accused of raiding his campaign coffers to fund his gambling habit, on his campaign finance reports. Benson also had the mayor read aloud for the court a statement just above the signature lines on all of his campaign finance reports vouching for their truth and accuracy.

"It was an error," Soderquist said.

"It was an error you created, and you knew it," Benson shot back.

The mayor and his wife are accused of using money from the campaign and the city's food pantry to pay for more than 50 gambling trips, mostly to the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan.

Soderquist admitted Wednesday he did this "a few times" but that in his mind it was OK because he loaned money to both that had never been paid back. However, he also acknowledged he did not keep track, other than in his head, of how much he was for mileage.

Benson on Thursday directed Soderquist through most of the 16 ATM withdrawals from the food pantry's account that were made within 24 hours of when activity was shown on Soderquist's member card at Four Winds that tracks gambling activity. The mayor said he would have been the one to use the card at those times.

"My card was being used, I assume it was me," he said.

Soderquist insisted he never meant to defraud either the food pantry or people who had donated to his campaign.

"Never," he said.

The mayor also testified that he and his wife often made runs to pick up food for the food pantry and were never reimbursed for their mileage, sometimes as many as 25 to 30 trips a month.

Other testimony and evidence focused on just how much money the Soderquists actually loaned the campaign and how much they were owed.

Steve Martinez, an IRS criminal investigator who testified for the government and was brought back by the defense, told the jury that he had not considered any loans or expenses the Soderquists had made to his campaign when he ran for City Council in 1999 and 2003 when coming up with the $16,908 that the IRS considers unaccounted withdrawals from the campaign's account. Martinez, however, said that he understood Soderquist had created a new campaign committee to run his mayoral race, which meant that any debts owed by his city council campaign did not carry over to the new committee.

Donald Smith, a certified public accountant from Lowell, testified that from the records the Soderquists gave him, the campaign owed them about $2,500, including debts from his city council races and assuming that all ATM withdrawals were not campaign expenses.

However, he told Benson under cross examination that he had not seen four checks totaling $3,000 from the campaign fund paid to Deborah Soderquist that have notes about paying back loans.

Smith testified that when he came up with the amount still owed to the Soderquists, he did so by relying on receipts they submitted to him and then going through some of them with the couple to have them explain their purpose.

"I had a level of satisfaction that I could trust them," he said.

The trial was delayed for about 20 minutes after lunch when U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano held a sealed hearing with the attorneys in the case. King asked to make a motion in the judge's chambers.

King said earlier in the day that he expected Smith to be the defense's last witness. The trial is expected to continue Friday.












Mayor Soderquist continues defense on stand
September 10, 2015 - 1:00 PM
NWI Times
Elvia Malagon Elvia.malagon@nwi.com, (219) 662-5331
HAMMOND | Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist explained discrepancies in his campaign reports by telling jurors Thursday that he didn't make them a priority.

He described for a U.S. District Court jury how he and his wife, Deborah, would typically start working on the reports the day before they were due, and would turn them in minutes before the deadline.

"We just didn't have the time to complete the form completely," he said.

Soderquist took the stand in his defense Wednesday and continued testifying Thursday morning.

The government's indictment against Keith and Deborah Soderquist alleges that between spring 2010 and December 2012, the couple improperly took money from the campaign fund and food pantry at the same time they were losing more than $100,000 at area casinos. They face charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, and three counts of false filing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson questioned if Soderquist was lying when he signed the campaign expense reports indicating the documents were accurate. Soderquist repeatedly said it was an error on his part.

Soderquist conceded under questioning by Benson that he could have worked on the reports instead of making numerous trips to the casino.

Benson walked Soderquist line by line through ATM withdrawals from the food pantry account compared with records from Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich.

For example, records show $400 was withdrawn Jan. 29, 2011, from an ATM using the food pantry card on the same day that the couple's casino player cards were used.

Soderquist said he didn't dispute the records, but under questioning by defense attorney Scott King he maintained that the cash withdrawals were reimbursement for expenses related to the pantry. He said the reimbursements were for mileage and food purchases.

Benson questioned why the pantry's debit card was not used directly at the grocery store to pay for the food. Soderquist explained that the card had his wife's name on it, and the store wouldn't have allowed him to make the transaction.

Soderquist has served as mayor since 2008 and prior to that served on the city council. Soderquist ran for a third term as mayor this year but was defeated in the Democratic primary.

His wife served as his administrative assistant and was also allegedly involved in the operation of the food pantry. She also served as treasurer of her husband's election campaign committee.













Lake Station mayor testifies, says campaign, food pantry owed him money
Lake Station mayor says he procrastinated on amending campaign finance reports
Taking the stand Wednesday afternoon, Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist admitted withdrawing money from his campaign fund and the city's food pantry to gamble.
September 09, 2015 - 7:12 PM
Post-Tribune

Taking the stand Wednesday afternoon, Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist admitted withdrawing money from his campaign fund and the city's food pantry to gamble.

"I have done that," the mayor testified during his trial at U.S. District Court in Hammond.

However, he defended his actions, saying both his campaign and the food pantry owed him money.

"That money was mine because (the campaign) owed me that," he said. "It was very clear, and I'm very clear on that today."

He also testified that he did this only a few times.

Federal attorneys have accused Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, of embezzling the money to pay for more than 50 gambling trips to local casinos, mainly Four Winds in New Buffalo, Mich., over the past several years. The government claims the campaign and food pantry did not owe Soderquist the money.

He disputed that during his testimony, however, telling the jury that he allowed food pantry volunteers to use his personal truck several times a week to pick up food and that he had occasionally paid volunteers from his own pocket to reimburse them for their gas costs.

He also claimed he and his wife had donated money and various services — including their Internet, phone line and mileage — to his campaigns since he first ran in 1999.

However, Soderquist admitted he never kept an official record of these expenses.

"I felt a little guilty charging my committee what was owed to me," he said. "I didn't need to be reimbursed at the time."

Instead, Soderquist claimed, he tried to keep an idea in his head as to how much mileage he had racked up for both the campaign and the pantry.

The mayor also started going to the casinos more often, he testified, as a way to relax away from the pressing concerns of his constituents.

"We do need a private life on occasion," he said, adding that he usually gambled at the penny slots.

Circumstances changed for the mayor when he lost his private-sector job, which had paid in the range of $80,000, soon after the September 2008 flood that hit the city. Soderquist said he and his wife looked at how they could consolidate their debts, which included stopping payments on their various credit cards so that they could negotiate lower rates and withdrawing money from his retirement and life savings accounts.

He also looked to who owed him money, which Soderquist said included the food pantry and his campaign.

"I felt that was perfectly fine," he said of withdrawing money from the accounts through an ATM card.

Despite his financial problems, the mayor said, he and his wife started going to the casinos even more and gambling more.

He made it a point to never withdraw money at the casino, however, stating that he knew people would have a negative perception of it, the mayor said.

Soderquist also admitted he never amended his campaign finance reports to show these withdrawals, saying he procrastinated.

"Eventually I would get to it," he said of his thought process.

He added that he had asked Lake County about it, but that he got the impression the elections board was lax about making amendments.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson grilled him during cross examination about the reports, asking him whether he knew that he was supposed to fill out the finance reports accurately and completely.

"You knew you had to put the loans on the (form), right?" Benson asked.

"I was aware any expenses had to be on the report," Soderquist replied.

Federal attorneys closed their case earlier in the day after more than four days of testimony. Other defense witnesses included Michael Del Toro, director of solid waste for the city, who testified about helping out at the city's food pantry. Del Toro told the jury that he saw Deborah Soderquist, who ran the food pantry, pay one volunteer in gas several times for mileage reimbursement and that he also saw her give the volunteer the food pantry's debit card so he could buy food from various grocery stores.

Councilman Todd Rogers testified about going to Four Winds with the Soderquists about four times a year for dinner. They didn't gamble together, however, because Rogers thought the mayor was bad luck, he said.

Councilman Todd Lara told the jury he went to a casino with the Soderquists once.

The trial has already gone past the original estimate of four to five days, and U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano admonished both sides Wednesday afternoon not to drag the trial out any more. He told the jury he wants to get the case finished this week. The trial is expected to continue Thursday.












Mayor takes stand to defend self, wife
September 09, 2015 - 12:30 AM
NWI Times
Ed Bierschenk edwin.bierschenk@nwi.com, (219) 933-4195

HAMMOND | Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist admitted Wednesday to taking money from his election campaign fund and food pantry fund to gamble, but said it was money owed for expenditures he made for those accounts.

Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, are on trial in U.S. District Court on charges of improperly taking money from his campaign fund and the city's food pantry account and failing to record the money taken on federal tax returns.

Soderquist took the stand after the prosecution rested its case earlier Wednesday.

Witnesses for the prosecution used cellphone, ATM,and casino records to try to show how withdrawals were made from the city's food pantry account and Soderquist's campaign committee fund prior to them going to Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich.

"That was the convenient way to take cash out of the committee to pay me back for my expenses," Soderquist said.

Soderquist indicated the campaign expenses included paying poll workers and other campaign needs going back to 1999 when he first ran for the Lake Station City Council. In the case of the food pantry, Soderquist said he paid mileage to volunteers who picked up goods for the pantry. 

He said he didn't need the reimbursement from the campaign account at the time. He said he had his private sector job and didn't put the expenditures he made out of his own pocket in the original campaign finance reports.

Soderquist said he meant to amend his campaign finance forms to reflect the expenses he had not originally listed, but "I would always procrastinate."

The government's indictment against the Soderquists alleges that between spring 2010 and December 2012, the couple improperly took money from the campaign fund and food pantry while they were losing more than $100,000 at area casinos.

They face charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing a false income tax form.

Soderquist said he would not use the ATM directly at the casino to withdraw money from the campaign committee account or the food pantry because of the perception it might create.

"Back to the perception thing," he told his attorney Scott King. "I'm not going to use the food pantry card at a casino."

Soderquist said he also did not file bankruptcy when he fell into financial troubles after the loss of his private sector job in 2009 because of perception.

He said even though bankruptcy is legal, filing for it would have ended his career as mayor.

"There are people out there who are haters," Soderquist said.

Instead, he said, he negotiated a settlement with his credit card companies after he stopped making payments for a few months. The credit card companies eventually forgave more than $38,000 worth of debt in 2010, according to government records. In some cases, the debt wiped out represented about half what the couple owed on their cards.

Soderquist said he made more than $80,000 from his private sector job and initially about $55,000 from his job at mayor.  

In addition to negotiating a settlement with his credit card companies, the Soderquists started taking money out of their retirement accounts - mainly ones tied to Keith Soderquist. By 2012, the couple had withdrawn nearly $100,000 combined from their retirement accounts.

Soderquist indicated the money was used to pay debt, but also acknowledged some of the money probably went to gambling. The couple reportedly lost about $140,000 gambling between 2009 and 2012, primarily at Four Winds.

Soderquist indicated his gambling probably increased after he lost his job, but under repeated questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson he refused to say he was addicted to gambling.  

"No, I don't believe it was a full blown addiction, no," he told Benson.

Seeing the amounts of money lost by the couple that has been displayed during the trial, however, Soderquist said he realized he gambled too much.

"Looking back now, I had a problem and I gambled too much," said Soderquist. He also said he did not believe it was inappropriate to allow his wife to have an ATM card for the food 
pantry account she helped oversee even though he also now believes she gambled too much. 












Soderquists' spending analyzed in court
NWI Times
September 08, 2015 - 11:00 PM

HAMMOND | Prosecutors in the trial of Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, attempted Tuesday to use cellphone records to trace their movements between Lake Station and New Buffalo, Mich., the home of the Four Winds Casino.

As the trial entered its second week Tuesday, defense attorney Scott King reminded jurors the gambling is not a crime.

"Are my clients charged with gambling?" King asked IRS Special Agent Steve Martinez.

"No," replied Martinez.

The two are charged with improperly using money from Soderquist's campaign fund and the Lake Station's Food Pantry account to help fund some of their numerous gambling trips -- mainly to the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich.

Under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson, FBI agent Nathan Holbrook went over records showing times that cellphones belonging to the pair were used in the area of Lake Station, New Buffalo, Mich., and some other locations. The records were used in an attempt to show the correlation between when the phones were in use and when ATM withdrawals were taken from the campaign fund or the food pantry fund and when the Soderquists' players club cards were used at the Four Winds Casino.

For example, on Sept. 18, 2012, Holbrook went over records showing a call from Keith Soderquist's phone went through the cell tower in Lake Station at 6:34 p.m. About four minutes later, bank records showed a $300 ATM withdrawal was made in Lake Station from Soderquist's campaign account. At 9:24 p.m. that day, a call to Keith Soderquist's phone went through the New Buffalo cell tower, which was between the first time and last time that players club cards belonging to the Soderquists were used at the casino that night, according to casino records.

The Soderquists face charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, and three counts of filing false income tax returns.

Martinez last week and again Tuesday testified about banking and casino records that showed on numerous occasions the Soderquists made ATM withdrawals from the campaign fund or food pantry fund within 24 hours of their players club cards being used at the casino.

On Tuesday, King pointed out the Soderquists each had more than one players club card and Martinez agreed there were a fair amount of cards issued to them. One casino executive has acknowledged that other people could use the Soderquist's cards when gambling. 

In earlier testimony, James Busch, who oversaw the city's composting operation for a number of years, recalled that Keith Soderquist at one time told him that one of Deborah Soderquist's brothers had added $10,000 on his players club card by using it at the gaming tables. Martinez, however, noted there was no record of $10,000 being lost on the table games by the Soderquists.

Casino records also showed only about $100 of the losses recorded for the couple came from the table games. Almost all of the nearly $140,000 allegedly lost by the couple between 2009 and 2012 was the result of slot machine play, according to those records.

Officials do not have video of the two being at the  casino during that period. Martinez, however, said in a number of cases when the couple were said to have been at the casino after taking money from the campaign fund or food pantry fund, one or both of them displayed their photo identification to get into the casino's Copper Lounge. 

Martinez also said if the couple had used money from the campaign fund or food pantry fund for personal uses such as gambling it should have been recorded as other income on their income tax forms.

Under questioning from King, Martinez acknowledged if the money taken from the funds was for legitimate reimbursements it didn't have to be treated as income. Since the charges were filed, the defense has provided some receipts for political expenditures that were apparently not originally on the Soderquist's campaign reports. Martinez, however, said even allowing for those receipts there is more than $16,000 in money taken from the campaign fund that is unaccounted for in the records.

Holbrook on Tuesday also testified about Chase Bank account records regarding a City of Lake Station Flood Victims account opened in Sept. 17, 2008, following a flood that hit the area.

Holbrook said the fund accumulated more than $2,200 in deposits, but the only withdrawal occurred when the money was transferred into the Lake Station Food Pantry account on March 29, 2010. He also spoke about how the city donated several thousand dollars to the account.












Cell phone records connected to gambling trips in Soderquist trial
Post Tribune
September 08, 2015 - 7:29 PM

Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist's trial continued Tuesday as federal attorneys connected various pieces of evidence to tie withdrawals from his campaign fund and the city's food pantry to dozens of gambling trips.

FBI Special Agent Nathan Holbrook and Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson went through 56 cell phone calls made from November 2011 through November 2012 that tracked the general location of the mayor and his wife, Deborah Soderquist. Some of the calls were made in the same area and time of ATM withdrawals from either Soderquist's campaign account or the Lake Station Food Pantry account.

For instance, one call made on Nov. 21, 2011, was placed in Lake Station five minutes before a withdrawal was made in the city, according to the records.

Records showed these withdrawals were all made within 24 hours of a trip to Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich., and roughly half were made within two hours of a trip.

The rest of the calls were all made from New Buffalo, and around the same time that casino cards opened in the Soderquists' names showed activity. Records from a large number of the casino trips also showed that the Soderquists used their player cards to enter the Copper Lounge, which requires photo identification.

The Soderquists are accused of using money from his campaign fund and the food pantry to pay for more than 50 gambling trips, mostly to Four Winds.

Earlier in the day, Steve Martinez, a criminal investigator for the IRS, testified under cross-examination by defense attorney Scott King that the IRS gave the Soderquists credit for all of the receipts they turned over for campaign expenses that had not been reported on campaign finance disclosure forms without trying to determine whether they were legitimate campaign expenses. Even factoring out money from these receipts, he said, there was still $16,908 withdrawn from the account that had not been accounted for.

"We found a large amount of money coming out of the bank account," he said.

The Soderquists have said they paid themselves money from the campaign fund as reimbursement for previous loans.

Martinez testified that the couple did record making some loans to the mayor's campaign fund and then paying the loans back over time. However, these reported loans did not account for any of the $16,908 taken out in withdrawals, he said, and the Soderquists never reported any other loans being made to the campaign fund.

The government also introduced evidence to dispute claims by King and his fellow defense attorney, Lakeisha Murdaugh, that the Soderquists had to help the food pantry financially after bad floods hit the city in September 2008. Records from a bank account in the name of Lake Station Flood Victims that was opened just two days after the floods hit the city show that $2,236 was deposited into the account in the first six weeks after it was created.

No money was withdrawn from the account until March 2010, 18 months later, when all of the money was transferred to the Lake Station Food Pantry account.

The trial, which started last week, is expected to continue Wednesday.












State: Soderquists kept gambling as losses piled up
September 05, 2015 - 11:00 PM
NWI Times

HAMMOND | By 2010, Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, were pulling tens of thousands of dollars out of various funds as their gambling losses climbed toward $100,000.

Eventually, prosecutors contend, they began dipping into funds donated to the mayor's campaign fund and the city's food pantry.

Their defense attorney, Scott King, contends the withdrawals were merely the couple repaying themselves for legitimate expenditures they had made earlier out of their own pockets.

A federal jury may decide next week which story to believe in what is likely the highest stakes the couple have ever faced.

The trial of the couple on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, and three counts of filing a false tax return began Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Hammond before Senior Judge Rudy Lozano.

The prosecution is expected to rest its case Tuesday. Following the defense presentation, jury deliberations could begin that day or Wednesday.

The Lake Station mayor and his wife may have made more than 750 visits to the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich., between Aug. 3, 2007, and May 27, 2013, based on players club card records kept by the casino.

At the same time, the couple were faced with large credit card debt, although King has indicated their financial woes were tied to a job loss.

Eventually, the couple's credit card debt reached the point where they stopped making payments and began negotiating settlements.

According to testimony, in some cases they were able to reach arrangements to have about half of their credit card debt wiped out. Even under that arrangement, the couple were left with large amounts of debt they had to pay off.

In 2010, the couple had $38,167 worth of debt forgiven — most of it several credit card accounts belonging to Keith Soderquist.

In 2009, government records show that Keith Soderquist made early withdrawals from his retirement funds of about $44,000. By 2012, the couple had withdrawn nearly $100,000 combined from their retirement accounts — primarily from the ones under Keith Soderquist's name.

On the afternoon of May 24, 2010, the first ATM withdrawal of $100 took place from the Committee to Elect Keith Soderquist campaign fund. That evening government records showed that players club cards belonging to the two were used at the Four Winds Casino.

On Jan. 13, 2011, the first ATM withdrawal was taken from the city's food pantry bank account and again within 24 hours the players cards belonging to the pair were used at the casino, according to records presented at the Soderquists' trial.

The next day, ATM withdrawals of $500 were made from both the campaign and food pantry funds.

During the next three years, the couple allegedly made dozens of such withdrawals within 24 hours of visiting the casino, according to the records that Internal Revenue Service Special Agent Steve Martinez testified Friday.

In all, $35,304.25 in ATM withdrawals were made from the campaign fund and $5,040 in such withdrawals were made from the food pantry fund during this period, according to the records. The government contends a significant amount of those withdrawals, more than $20,000 in the case of the campaign fund, were taken within 24 hours of the couple's player cards being used during numerous visits to the casino.

According to Martinez, if the money from these funds were being used for personal purposes, they should have been recorded on the couple's tax returns. He said they were not listed in the returns.

Martinez also testified about casino records he obtained from the Four Winds Casino as well as the Blue Chip Casino, in Michigan City. Those records show Keith Soderquist losing $75,271 at the Four Winds Casino from 2009 through 2012 and Deborah Soderquist losing $60,246, based on their player club cards' records. Similar records also show Keith Soderquist losing $2,141 at Blue Chip from 2011 through 2012 and Deborah Soderquist losing $2,127 at that casino during those years.

In all, the couple reportedly lost nearly $140,000 during those years at the two casinos. These losses were almost all money lost at slot machines, according to record.

King during cross-examination has elicited testimony about how casino gambling is a legal activity. Clayton Mason, an executive with the Four Winds Casino, also acknowledged to King that the activity being tracked was for the players club cards assigned to the Soderquists and that others besides the couple could use the cards while gambling.












Testimony shows links between fund withdrawals, gambling trips
September 04, 2015 - 11:30 PM
NWI Times

HAMMOND | An Internal Revenue Service special agent testified Friday about how Lake Station's mayor and his wife apparently traveled to a casino less than 24 hours after withdrawals from his campaign fund and the town's food pantry account.

At the trial of Keith and Deborah Soderquist in U.S. District Court in Hammond, IRS Special Agent Steve Martinez used bank and casino records to link the two events.

From 2010 to 2012, $35,304.25 in ATM withdrawals were made from the Campaign to Elect Keith Soderquist Fund. Another $5,040 in such withdrawals were taken from the food pantry account.

Soderquist was elected mayor in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. Martinez said the first ATM withdrawal from the campaign account, amounting to $100, occurred on the afternoon of May 24, 2010. That night, players' cards assigned to Keith and Deborah Soderquist were used at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich., according to records Martinez testified about Friday.

Players cards are given to gamblers to track their gambling. Based on their play, gamblers using the cards can receive free slot play, free food and other perks. 

On June 18, 19, 20, and 21, 2010, withdrawals of between $300 and $500 were made from the campaign fund within 24 hours of the Soderquists' players cards being used at the casino. On Jan. 13, 2011, the first ATM withdrawal was made from the food pantry within 24 hours of the cards being used at the casino.

The next day, $500 was withdrawn from the campaign fund within 24 hours of the Soderquists' cards being used at the casino.

In all, the couple is alleged to have taken more than $20,000 in ATM withdrawals from the campaign committee bank account within 24 hours of gambling, according to the grand jury indictment, which charged the pair with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, and three counts of filing a false income tax form.

Under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Kolar on Friday, Martinez said if the money taken from the ATMs was used for personal use, such as gambling, then it should have been listed as other income on the couple's tax returns for the years 2010, 2011, and 2012. He said the money, however, was not listed on the forms.

Defense attorney Scott King contends money taken from the accounts were repayments for money they couple had spent out of their own pocket and said the government has receipts of some of these expenditures. A casino employee cross-examined by King earlier has also acknowledged the players' cards can be used by other people at times. 

In court documents filed prior to the start of the trial, prosecutors contended the Soderquists "attempted to cover up their crimes by submitting false and misleading documents to investigators."

King is expected to cross-examine Martinez when the trial resumes Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano.

Lozano told jury members Friday they could begin their deliberations either Tuesday or Wednesday. If convicted of all the charges, the Soderquists face up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines on each wire fraud charge.












Soderquist debit card use probed by feds in trial
September 04, 2015 - 6:42 PM
Chicago Tribune

Prosecutors delved deep into Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist's debit card withdrawals from the Lake Station Food Pantry and his campaign accounts during the third day of the federal corruption trial in U.S. District Court in Hammond on Friday.

The government contends Keith and Deborah Soderquist used debit card withdrawals from the food pantry and his campaign for their gambling activities at Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich., and at the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City.

Steve Martinez, a criminal investigator for the Internal Revenue Service, testified he analyzed financial documents from banks, casinos, IRS records and Soderquist's campaign finance data. He cited gambling loses of nearly $140,000 from 2009 to 2012 at the two casinos. From 2010 to 2012, the Soderquists withdrew $35,304 from the campaign accounts. Martinez said there had been no campaign account debit card withdrawals until May 24, 2010. That same day, Martinez said, Keith Soderquist's player card was used at Four Winds.

During 2011 and 2012, he said, $5,040 was withdrawn with the food pantry debit card issued to the Soderquists.

Martinez cited several dates from 2010 to 2012 in which debit card withdrawals were followed by gambling activity within one to 24 hours.

Martinez testified the Soderquists did not list the debit card withdrawals as income on their joint IRS returns.

The couple are facing charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and filing a false income tax return.

Defense attorney Scott King will begin Tuesday's testimony with a cross examination of Martinez. King has said the couple withdrew the money for legitimate expenses.

IRS revenue agent Jerad Hatagan testified Keith Soderquist made early retirement withdrawals of nearly $100,000 between 2009 and 2012. Penalties were issued on some of those withdrawals, he said.

Meanwhile, he said, Keith Soderquist's debts of about $39,000 from banks and credit cards in 2010 and 2011 had been forgiven.

FBI special agent Donald Cooley testified he visited the ATM machine where campaign withdrawals were made on Central Avenue in Lake Station and then he drove the 36 miles to Four Winds Casino in about 38 minutes.

The government recalled James Busch, who testified Thursday, for a review of checks he wrote to the Soderquist campaign fund. Busch said he wrote a check for $1,808 in June 2010 for steaks from Strack and Van Til's for a golf outing fundraiser.

He said he gave the couple a blank check for food from Key Market in 2009 for another golf outing. "I was trying to show loyalty and that I trusted him." The check was made out for $1,171. "I was nervous about it, said Busch. "I would never do it again."

Busch also donated $900 in 2011 and $300 in 2012 but gave no direction on how the funds should be used.













HAMMOND | Prosecutors may rest their case against Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, Friday with closing arguments in the wire fraud trial expected to take place next week. 

Records compiled through the use of casino player cards and annual statements of losses issued to the Soderquists indicate the couple may have lost around $200,000 combined during several hundred trips to the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich. between 2007 and 2013. The losses were almost exclusively through slot play.

But their defense attorney, Scott King, said many of the casino records produced in court Thursday were tied only to the cards that were issued to the Soderquists and not directly to the couple. Under cross-examination, an official with the casino acknowledged that the Soderquists could have let other people use the cards. 

Soderquist and his wife, who served as treasurer of his campaign committee and helped oversee the city's food pantry, are on trial in U.S. District Court in Hammond on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, and three counts of false filing. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines on each wire fraud charge.

The government's indictment against the couple alleges between spring 2010 and December 2012, the Soderquists were improperly taking funds from the campaign fund and food pantry fund at the same time they were losing more than $100,000 at region casinos. 

The government contends that in a three-year span, the couple are alleged to have taken $18,500 from the election campaign account before going gambling at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich.

King has said government "got it wrong" in regard to charges against the couple, and cash they took from the funds were for reimbursement for earlier expenses they had paid out of their own pockets. He has also reminded the jury that gambling at the casinos is legal.

Thursday morning, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's office presented evidence and testimony detailing how the couple negotiated settlements with credit card companies in 2009 and early 2010 in order to resolve several thousand dollars worth of debt they had incurred. According to credit card records, loss of employment was given as a reason for the couple's inability to pay their full debt. A tax preparer called by prosecutors testified how Soderquist said he was insolvent when she was preparing his 2011 taxes.

Thursday afternoon, Clayton Mason, vice president of database and analytics at Four Winds Casino, went over records on players cards issued to the couple. The amount of money spent by a person using the card, what machines were played, and how long the cards are used are recorded. The information is used in providing player's rewards such as free food, slot play and hotels stays.

Mason said members get two points for every two dollars played on most slot machines. Those accumulating 50,000 points can get a Copper Club Card that allows them access to a special lounge and some other benefits, he said. According to Mason, probably less than 5 percent of those at his casino have obtained the Copper Club status, which the Soderquists had achieved.

Despite credit card problems in 2009 and 2010, statements sent to Keith Soderquist by Four Wnds casino showed him losing $28,882 at that establishment in 2009 and $30,506 in 2010. The statements had Deborah Soderquist losing $15,756 in 2009 and $26,411 n 2010.

The first witness Thursday was James Busch, who was contracted to run the Lake Station composting operation. Busch continued his testimony from Wednesday night in which he talked about meeting with the Soderquists and Third District Councilman Todd Rogers and his wife at Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo. He said he and his girlfriend met with them at the casino more than a dozen times over about a year and a half. After Soderquist's re-election in November 2011, he said the mayor even paid for meals for about 16 people including campaign workers at the casino buffet.












Casino records show more than $200K in losses on Soderquists' cards
September 03, 2015 - 6:47 PM
Chicago Tribune

Federal attorneys spent the second day of Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist's criminal trial breaking down his financial problems.

The attorneys went through data from Keith and Deborah Soderquist's casino player cards that tracked their play from August 2007 through early 2013. The cards showed a net total loss of $245,334 after subtracting the money they won.

Clayton Mason, vice president of data and analytics for Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich., said those numbers included free credits the Soderquists would have received, which typically make up about 15 percent to 20 percent of what clients gamble.

Letters that the Four Winds would give them at the end of each year to show their net wins and losses for filing their income tax returns shows both of them losing a total of $207,490 over that time period.

Federal attorneys argue that the Soderquists started using by at least spring 2010 money from his campaign re-election fund and the Lake Station Food Pantry fund to pay for the gambling trips, which included more than 700 days at Four Winds over five years, according to their player cards records. They're charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing a false income tax return.

Mason said under cross-examination by defense attorney Scott King that other people could have possibly used the Soderquists' cards to gamble with, but the government presented a handful of other records, such as receipts for food and hotel rooms, from the casino that included their signatures.

Mason also testified that the copper player card that the Soderquists had was for clients who gambled the most amount of money and that about only 5 percent of their clients had a copper card.

Earlier Thursday, James Busch, a friend of Keith Soderquist, testified that he and his girlfriend met the mayor, Deborah Soderquist, Lake Station Councilman Todd Rogers and Rogers' wife at the casino about 10 to 15 times. He told the jury that Soderquist told him he was able to get the copper card because his brother-in-law used it when he gambled $10,000 on a table game, but the card records show a total of just $100 ever gambled on table games.

The government says the Soderquists' finances were a mess, which is why they took from the campaign and pantry funds to pay for their gambling trips. To support that, they presented records showing the Soderquists charged off at least 10 credit cards, meaning they only paid part of the balance, and left at least $29,727 of their credit card balances unpaid.

Karen Kegenbein, who worked for Curtis Complete Accounting and interviewed the mayor in order to file his 2010, 2011 and 2012 tax returns, said that he told her during their first meeting that he was insolvent.

The trial is expected to continue for its third day of testimony on Friday.












Use debit card focus of Soderquist trial testimony
September 02, 2015 - 8:12 PM
Chicago Tribune

Testimony during the trial of Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist focused on campaign finance law and the Lake Station Food Pantry.

Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, are accused of using money from the pantry and his campaign fund to pay for more than 50 gambling trips to local casinos.

Former Lake Station Mayor Shirley Wadding and other former food pantry volunteers testified about how they decided to start the food pantry more than a decade ago to address what they saw as a growing need in the city.

Federal attorneys asked each volunteer about how they handled the pantry's money, and all of them said they always paid local grocery stores by a check that Edward Lacko, the pantry's treasurer, would sign. Wadding said none of the volunteers ever asked her to get a debit card because it wasn't needed.

Linda Newton, who oversaw the pantry under Wadding, said she and other volunteers would drive out to Hammond once a week to pick up food from the Greater Hammond Food Pantry, receiving $20 a month in reimbursement for gas and tolls.

The process changed once Soderquist took office. The volunteers left — Newton said she quit because the mayor berated her in front of others soon after he took office — and Ray Ostrander, former superintendent of public works, testified that Deborah Soderquist, who works as her husband's secretary, eventually told him to start making trips to pick up food. During the times he needed to pay, he would use a debit card, Ostrander said.

Federal attorneys claim the Soderquists used that debit card to take money from the pantry's bank account within 24 hours of their gambling trips.

Timothy Cottingham, with the Greater Hammond Food Pantry, testified that it's not normal for food pantries to use a debit card because it's not as easy to track how cash is spent versus a check or credit card.

"In my opinion, I think it opens you up to a lot of questions," he said, adding that he advises others against using a debit card.

However, under cross examination, Cottingham said that he could see some situations where it would make it easier to pay if the account holder couldn't make the purchase.

The government also showed the jury several agreements Lake Station signed with Greater Hammond that listed Deborah Soderquist as the contact person for the food pantry.

Other testimony focused on campaign finance reports. Abbey Taylor, the campaign finance coordinator for the Indiana State Election Division, explained to the jury what candidates are required to report on their finance forms, including each individual donation and expense of more than $100.

Taylor also testified that candidates are allowed to use campaign money to pay their living expenses if they quit their job to run for office but that these expenses and any reimbursements for donations a candidate made to his own campaign must be reported on their financial forms.

The forms tell candidates that other personal expenses are not allowed by law, Taylor said.

Defense attorney Scott King has argued that the couple withdrew money from Soderquist's campaign fund as reimbursement for legitimate expenses. Federal attorneys, however, say these were never recorded in their finance reports.

Under cross-examination by King, Taylor said candidates are allowed to amend their finance reports in case they made a mistake but that they're still expected to do so correctly the first time.

The finance report was the center of a dispute between the two sides. King argued that the form mistakenly tells candidates that it's a misdemeanor crime to not file a complete and accurate report; King claimed the law makes it an infraction, similar to a ticket.

However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson argued that it didn't matter whether it was really a misdemeanor, only that Soderquist believed it was when he signed the reports.

About a dozen people watched the trial throughout the day, including former Lake Station Judge Christopher Anderson, who defeated Soderquist in the May primary for the Democratic nomination for mayor.

The trial is expected to continue Thursday morning.












Food pantry focus of early testimony in Soderquist trial
September 02, 2015 - 2:00 PM
NWI Times
Ed Bierschenk edwin.bierschenk@nwi.com, (219) 933-4195


HAMMOND | Officials involved in the establishment and initial operation of the Lake Station Food Pantry were the first witnesses to testify Wednesday in the trial of Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist, and his wife, Deborah, on federal charges of improperly using money from the food pantry and his campaign fund.

According to the government, it wasn't until Soderquist and his wife, took over the operation of the food pantry, that and a debit card was obtained for the account. The couple are accused of using ATM cards to withdraw money from the campaign fund and food pantry prior to going gambling at area casinos.

Wednesday morning, Shirley Wadding, who was mayor when the food pantry was established, testified that a checking account was established to handle monetary donations to the pantry during her tenure. She and others involved in the operation at the time said they didn't see a need to have a debit card and that checks were written to obtain food that wasn't donated to the pantry.

The Soderquists face charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, and three counts of false filing. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines on each wire fraud charge. The pair are expected to contend money taken from his campaign fund and Lake Station's food pantry were reimbursement for money owed to them.

The Soderquists are represented by Scott King and attorney Lakeisha Murdaugh. Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Kolar and Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson represent the government.

The government's indictment against the couple alleges that between spring 2010 and December 2012, the Soderquists were improperly taking funds from the campaign fund and food pantry fund at the same time they were losing $104,000 at region casinos.

In a three-year span, the couple are alleged to have taken $18,500 from the election campaign account before going gambling at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich. The indictment also contends the pair at one point in July 2011 had a check issued from Lake Station to the Food Pantry account. Later, $300 was withdrawn from the account and about two hours later the pair were allegedly gambling at Four Winds Casino.

The Lake Station Food Pantry received private donations as well as donations from the city and the Indiana State Department of Health.

Kolar said the Soderquists funded their gambling with money donated to their campaign and the food pantry. He said the couple withdrew donated money from an automatic teller machine within 24 hours of going gambling more than 50 times.












Testimony begins in Lake Station mayor's trial
Testimony in Lake Station mayor's trial focuses on need for credit cards
By Teresa Auch Schultz
Post-Tribune
September 02, 2015 - 1:35 PM


A federal jury learned Wednesday about the creation of the Lake Station Food Pantry as testimony in Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist's criminal trial got underway.

Former Lake Station Mayor Shirley Wadding and other former food pantry volunteers testified about how the pantry was created more than a decade ago and that volunteers always used a check to pay for anything and that they never saw a need for a debit card.

Federal attorneys claim that Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, obtained a debit card for the food pantry once they took over and then used it to withdraw money from the account to help pay for more than 50 trips to local casinos over the past few years. The couple is accused of doing the same with money from his campaign fund.

Linda Newton, former manager of the pantry, said she quit days after Soderquist took office.

"He berated me in front of clients," she said. "Said quite a few derogatory remarks."

Federal attorneys also laid groundwork on campaign finance reports with testimony from Abbey Taylor, the campaign finance coordinator for the Indiana State Election Division. She explained to the jury how candidates are required to report on their finance forms, including each individual donation and expense of more than $100.

Taylor also testified that candidates are allowed to use campaign money to pay their living expenses if they quit their job to run for office but that these expenses and any reimbursements for donations a candidate made to his own campaign must be reported on their financial forms.

The forms tell candidates that other personal expenses are not allowed by law, Taylor said.

Soderquist's attorney, Scott King, has argued that the couple withdrew money from his campaign fund to reimburse themselves for legitimate expenses, but federal attorneys say these were never recorded in their finance reports. The trial is expected to continue Wednesday afternoon with more testimony.












Lake Station mayor's trial begins
September 02, 2015 - 12 AM
NWI Times
Ed Bierschenk edwin.bierschenk@nwi.com, (219) 933-4195


HAMMOND | Opening statements Tuesday in the public corruption trial of Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, painted two vastly different pictures of the couple.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Kolar described a couple who made numerous improper withdrawals from campaign accounts and the town's food pantry before going gambling at local casinos.

Defense attorney Scott King, however, described a caring couple whose withdrawals were merely reimbursements for legitimate expenditures they had made.

The trial is expected to continue at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday with witnesses that could include donors to Soderquist's campaign.

The Soderquists face charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, and three counts of false filing. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines on each wire fraud charge. The pair are expected to contend money taken from his campaign fund and Lake Station's food pantry were reimbursement for money owed to them.

The Soderquists are represented by King and attorney Lakeisha Murdaugh. Kolar and Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson represent the government.

The government's indictment against the couple alleges that between spring 2010 and December 2012, the Soderquists were improperly taking funds from the campaign fund and food pantry fund at the same time they were losing $104,000 at region casinos.

In a three-year span, the couple are alleged to have taken $18,500 from the election campaign account before going gambling at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich. The indictment also contends the pair at one point in July 2011 had a check issued from Lake Station to the Food Pantry account. Later, $300 was withdrawn from the account and about two hours later the pair were allegedly gambling at Four Winds Casino.

The Lake Station Food Pantry received private donations as well as donations from the city and the Indiana State Department of Health.

Kolar said the Soderquists funded their gambling with money donated to their campaign and the food pantry. He said the couple withdrew donated money from an automatic teller machine within 24 hours of going gambling more than 50 times.

The Soderquists did not record these expenditures as required on campaign forms, said Kolar. He also said some of the donors are expected to testify as to how they thought the money given to the couple would be spent.

"They certainly weren't told the defendants were gambling with their money," Kolar said.

King, however, said the couple used much of their own money to help fund his campaigns for office in Lake Station. They initially did not seek reimbursement for some of these expenditures, King said, but they kept receipts and eventually paid themselves back for these legitimate expenses from the campaign fund.

King told the jury that because the money taken from the campaign fund was reimbursement for funds they had advanced, it was not money that needed to be listed as income on their tax forms.

Keith Soderquist has served as mayor since 2008 and prior to that served on the City Council. Soderquist ran for a third term as mayor this year but was defeated in the Democratic primary. His wife served as his administrative assistant and was also allegedly involved in the operation of the Food Pantry. She also served as treasurer of her husband's election campaign committee. 

Kolar, in his opening remarks to the jury, also outlined the couple's financial difficulties. Information contained in the indictment against the couple said they lost more than $160,000 gambling at casinos from 2007 to 2013. Kolar indicated Tuesday the couple's gambling expenditures were tracked by the casinos through their participation in a reward club.

The government contends the couple withdrew more than $45,000 from retirement accounts in 2009 and 2010 and $5,000 in 2011. After cashing out retirement savings, prosecutors say the couple's financial conditions grew worse and in 2010 and 2011 they discharged over $35,000 in credit card debt because they were insolvent.

King, however, indicated the Soderquists financial difficulties were tied to a flood that hit the area in 2008.

The need created by that devastating flood overwhelmed the food pantry and the Soderquists were involved in bolstering the fund with donations, according to King. He indicated Keith Soderquist's dedication to his mayoral duties at the time prevented him from concentrating as much as he should on his private job and resulted in his dismissal.

In the wake of this financial downturn, Soderquist sought to renegotiate his debt but found that in order to do so he first had to stop making payments on his credit cards.

The couple is also scheduled to stand trial in November along with the mayor's stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley, on separate charges. In that case, they are accused of knowing Brakley took at least $5,000 from the Lake Station City Court and helping to prevent her apprehension by police.












Soderquist campaign reports pulled by FBI
FBI collects Soderquist campaign reports
By Carrie Napoleon
Post-Tribune
September 01, 2015 - 4:24 PM

A special agent with the FBI Merrillville office pulled campaign finance records Tuesday for embattled Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist.

The agent, who declined to be identified, requested the amended campaign finance reports from March 2013 to the present for Soderquist at about 9:45 a.m. at the Board of Elections office in the Lake County Government Center in Crown Point.

She referred any request for comment to the FBI office in Merrillville. Calls directed to Supervisor Bill Rowell were not immediately returned Tuesday.

The request comes on the first day of trial for Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, who are charged with using money from his campaign re-election fund and money meant for the Lake Station food pantry to pay for gambling trips during the past several years.

They have pleaded not guilty to one county of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, and three counts of filing a false income tax return.

An election board employee later confirmed the request made by the special agent that was witnessed by a Post-Tribune reporter. The records request did not come with a subpoena, she said.












UPDATE: Lake Station mayor's trial begins
September 01, 2015
Ed Bierschenk edwin.bierschenk@nwi.com, (219) 933-4195


HAMMOND | Jury selection began this morning in the trial of Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his, wife, Deborah, on charges of improperly using campaign funds and money from the town's food pantry.

In an unusual move, courtroom deputies said U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano barred the media Monday from being present during jury selection.

The trial was delayed a day Monday because of concerns that the number of prospective jurors in the jury pool was too small.

The couple face charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, and three counts of false filing. If convicted they face up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines on each wire fraud charge. The pair are expected to contend money taken from his campaign fund and the city's food pantry were reimbursement for money owed to them.

The trial is expected to last about a week.

The Soderquists are represented by defense attorney Scott King and Lakeisha Murdaugh. King has said earlier that the government "got it wrong" in regard to charges against the couple.

The government's indictment against the couple alleges that between spring 2010 and December 2012, the Soderquists were improperly taking funds from the campaign fund and food pantry fund at the same time they were losing $104,000 at region casinos.

In a three-year span, the couple are alleged to have taken $18,500 from the election campaign account before going gambling at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich.

The indictment contends the pair at one point in July 2011 had a check issued from the city to the Food Pantry account. Later, $300 was withdrawn from the account and about two hours later the pair were allegedly gambling at Four Winds Casino.

The Lake Station Food Pantry received private donations as well as donations from the city and the Indiana State Department of Health.

In proposed jury instructions submitted by the government, prosecutors suggest the jury be told the defendants intent to return money to the campaign committee or food pantry is not a defense to the wire fraud charges.

In defense objections to that portion of the proposed jury instructions, King contends the "defendants are unaware of any evidence ... that would suggest that the defendants had any intent to return money to either the food bank or the campaign committee. Rather, the defendants have asserted and at trial will assert that any money they received was reimbursement for personal funds they had previously advanced on behalf of those entities and was not at any time illegally obtained."

In a later objection, King said evidence has been provided to the government by the defense showing the Soderquists obtained and maintained receipts for advances of personal monies for which they later were reimbursed.

Keith Soderquist has served as mayor since 2008. He ran for a third term this year but was defeated in the Democratic primary. His wife served as his administrative assistant and was also allegedly involved in the operation of the Food Pantry. She also served as treasurer of her husband's election campaign committee.

The couple is also scheduled to stand trial in November along with the mayor's stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley, on separate charges. In that case, they are accused of knowing Brakley took at least $5,000 from the Lake Station City Court and helping to prevent her apprehension by police. King has denied they committed any criminal act in this case as well.












UPDATE: Soderquist trial delayed
Ed Bierschenk edwin.bierschenk@nwi.com, (219) 933-4195
NWI Times
August 31, 2015




HAMMOND | The trial of Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, was delayed a day Monday because of concerns about the small size of the jury pool.

Soderquist and his wife arrived at U.S. District Court shortly before 8 a.m. Monday to stand trial on charges of using campaign and food pantry money to gamble at local casinos.

The couple face charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, and three counts of false filing. If convicted they face up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines on each wire fraud charge. The pair are expected to contend money taken from his campaign fund and the city's food pantry were reimbursement for money owed to them.

The trial is expected to last about a week.

The Soderquists are represented by defense attorney Scott King and Lakeisha Murdaugh. King has said earlier that the government "got it wrong" in regard to charges against the couple.

The government's indictment against the couple alleges that between spring 2010 and December 2012, the Soderquists were improperly taking funds from the campaign fund and food pantry fund at the same time they were losing $104,000 at region casinos.

In a three-year span, the couple are alleged to have taken $18,500 from the election campaign account before going gambling at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich.

The indictment contends the pair at one point in July 2011 had a check issued from the city of Lake Station to the Food Pantry account. Later, $300 was withdrawn from the account and about two hours later the pair were allegedly gambling at Four Winds Casino. The Lake Station Food Pantry, designed to serve the needy around Lake Station, received private donations as well as donations from the city and the Indiana Department of Health.

In proposed jury instructions submitted by the government, prosecutors suggest the jury be told the defendants intent to return money to the campaign committee or food pantry is not a defense to the wire fraud charges.

In defense objections to that portion of the proposed jury instructions, King contends that the "defendants are unaware of any evidence ... that would suggest that the defendants had any intent to return money to either the food bank or the campaign committee. Rather, the defendants have asserted and at trial will assert that any money they received was reimbursement for personal funds they had previously advanced on behalf of those entities and was not at any time illegally obtained."

In a later objection, King said that evidence has been provided to the government by the defense that the Soderquists obtained and maintained receipts for advances of personal monies for which they later were reimbursed.

Keith Soderquist has served as mayor since 2008. Despite the indictment, he ran for a third term this year but was defeated in the Democratic primary. His wife served as his administrative assistant and was also allegedly involved in the operation of the Food Pantry. She also served as treasurer of her husband's election campaign committee.

The couple is also scheduled to stand trial in November along with the mayor's stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley, on separate charges. In that case, they are accused of knowing Brakley took at least $5,000 from the Lake Station City Court and helping to prevent her apprehension by police. King has denied they committed any criminal act in this case as well.












Soderquist trial delayed a day
By Teresa Auch Schultz
Post-Tribune
August 31, 2015


Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist's trial was delayed Monday after not enough potential jurors showed up.

Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, were supposed to go on trial on charges that they used money from his campaign re-election fund and money meant for the Lake Station Food Pantry to pay for gambling trips during the past several years.

They have pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing a false income tax return.

However, the trial was called for the day by 10 a.m. after not enough people arrived in order to select a full jury. The trial will reconvene Tuesday.

It's expect to last four to five days. Federal attorneys have said that records show the Soderquists withdrew money from the campaign and food pantry accounts within 24 hours of visiting Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan on numerous occasions.

They also argue the couple lost more than $100,000 from gambling and had already withdrawn money from their retirement accounts and wracked up more than $30,000 in credit card debt.

They're also both charged in second case involving Deborah Soderquist's daughter, Miranda Brakley, who is charged with stealing money from the city when she worked there as a city clerk and then lying on her bankruptcy filing.

All three have pled not guilty in that case, which is set to go to trial in November.












Soderquists contend money legitimately owed them
August 30, 2015
NWI Times
Ed Bierschenk edwin.bierschenk@nwi.com, (219) 933-4195

HAMMOND| Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife are expected to contend money taken from his campaign fund and the city's food pantry were reimbursement for money owed to them.

Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, are set to go on trial Monday in U.S. District Court in Hammond on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, and three counts of false filing. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines on each wire fraud charge.

The Soderquists are represented by defense attorney Scott King and Lakeisha Murdaugh. King has said earlier that the government "got it wrong" in regard to charges against the couple.

The government's indictment against the couple alleges that between spring 2010 and December 2012, the Soderquists were improperly taking funds from the campaign fund and food pantry fund at the same time they were losing $104,000 at region casinos.

In a three-year span, the couple are alleged to have taken $18,500 from the election campaign account before going gambling at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich.

The indictment contends the pair at one point in July 2011 had a check issued from the city of Lake Station to the Food Pantry account. Later, $300 was withdrawn from the account and about two hours later the pair were allegedly gambling at Four Winds Casino.

The Lake Station Food Pantry, designed to serve the needy around Lake Station, received private donations as well as donations from the city and the Indiana Department of Health.

In proposed jury instructions submitted by the government, prosecutors suggest the jury be told the defendants' intent to return money to the campaign committee or food pantry is not a defense to the wire fraud charges. 

In defense objections to that portion of the proposed jury instructions, King contends that the "defendants are unaware of any evidence ... that would suggest that the defendants had any intent to return money to either the food bank or the campaign committee. Rather, the defendants have asserted and at trial will assert that any money they received was reimbursement for personal funds they had previously advanced on behalf of those entities and was not at any time illegally obtained."

In a later objection, King said evidence has been provided to the government by the defense that the Soderquists obtained and maintained receipts for advances of personal monies for which they later were reimbursed.

Keith Soderquist has served as mayor since 2008. Despite the indictment, he ran for a third term this year but was defeated in the Democratic primary. His wife served as his administrative assistant and was also allegedly involved in the operation of the Food Pantry. She also served as treasurer of her husband's election campaign committee.

The couple are also scheduled to stand trial in November along with the mayor's stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley, on separate charges. In that case, they are accused of knowing Brakley took at least $5,000 from the Lake Station City Court and helping to prevent her apprehension by police. King has denied they committed any criminal act in this case as well.












Northwestern Indiana mayor facing trial on fraud charges
By - Associated Press 
Washington Times
Saturday, August 29, 2015

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) - The mayor of a northwestern Indiana city is set to go to trial over federal charges alleging that he and his wife took more than $20,000 from his campaign account in order to cover casino gambling losses.

Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife Deborah Soderquist are charged with conspiracy, wire fraud and filing false tax returns. The trial is scheduled to begin Monday.

Prosecutors say in court filings that the couple made more than 40 ATM withdrawals from the mayor’s campaign fund within 24 hours of their visits to casinos from 2010 to 2012. Prosecutors contend the couple lost more than $160,000 at casinos during a six-year period ending in 2013, The (Munster) Times and the (Merrillville) Post-Tribune reported.

Federal prosecutors plan to present receipts that the couple gave to investigators that supposedly explained how money from the mayor’s campaign fund was used, but they say those receipts were an attempt to hide that they had used it on gambling trips.

“The defendants held out the Campaign Committee to donors as one thing - a fund meant to help re-elect Mayor Soderquist - and treated the Campaign Committee money completely at odds with that representation,” prosecutors said in court documents.

Defense attorney Scott King has said Keith Soderquist might be responsible for sloppy reporting of campaign finances, but that he and his wife did nothing illegal.

King, who was once mayor of Gary, said the couple’s withdrawals were reimbursements to themselves for political expenses and that no fraud occurred.

Keith Soderquist has remained mayor of the 13,000-person city just east of Gary since he and his wife were indicted in April 2014. He was first elected mayor in 2008 but was badly beaten in May’s Democratic primary, ending his bid for a third term.

The mayor and his wife each face one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing a false income tax return.

The jury trial in U.S. District Court in Hammond is expected to last four to five days.












Lake Station mayor's corruption trial to start Monday
By Teresa Auch Schultz
Post-Tribune
August 28, 2015 - 10:50 AM


Lake Station mayor's corruption trial expected to last four to five days

Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist will join a long list of Lake County politicians Monday as he goes on trial on public corruption charges.

The trial will start with jury selection after Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, were charged in April 2014 in the U.S. District Court in Hammond with using money from his campaign's re-election committee and the Lake Station Food Pantry to fund dozens of trips to a casino. Federal attorneys have charged them both with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of lying on their income tax returns.

Both have pled not guilty in the case.

According to court records, the trial is expected to last four to five days. Attorneys for the Soderquists could not be reached for comment.

U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano said during a hearing Tuesday that he expects the trial to start around 8:30 a.m. and last until about 5 p.m. each day.

Federal attorneys in the case have said they'll present evidence that the Soderquists withdrew money from his campaign committee and food bank accounts at ATMs within 24 hours of making visits to local casinos. They also claim the couple lost more than $100,000 at the casinos during the past few years and had already taken more than $30,000 out of retirement accounts.

No matter the outcome of the trial, Soderquist will not be in office for much longer. He lost his bid for another term in office to challenger former Lake Station Judge Christopher Anderson in the primary election in May.

Soderquist will be the first Lake County elected official to go to trial since former Lake County Coroner Thomas Philpot did in 2012, when a jury convicted him of paying himself money meant for other county employees. However, several other politicians have been charged and pled guilty in between, including then-Lake County Surveyor George Van Til, who's serving an 18-month prison sentence after admitting he used his office and employees to help run his re-election campaigns, and Marilyn Krusas, the former Gary City Councilwoman who admitted she tried to hide money from the IRS after not filing an income tax return for two decades. She has since been released from prison, as has Philpot.

Other Lake County officials have also seen their public careers ended in the past decade from federal charges, including then-East Chicago Mayor George Pabey, who a federal jury convicted of using city employees and money to renovate a house he bought in Gary, and then-Calumet Township Trustee Dozier Allen Jr., who was convicted of taking money from a state grant that was supposed to pay a contractor.

The only other open case against a Lake County politician is the indictment against former Calumet Township Trustee Mary Elgin, who followed Allen in the seat, on various charges, including using her office and employees to run her re-election campaigns and trying to get a kickback from a vendor. She has pled not guilty in her case and is awaiting trial.

Soderquist stands out from these former politicians in that he's charged in two separate cases. The second case, which is set to go to trial in November, accuses his stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley, of stealing money from Lake Station when she worked there as a court clerk. Soderquist and his wife are accused of helping her. All three have also pled not guilty in that case.












Trial starts Monday in Soderquist case
August 27, 2015
NWI Times
Ed Bierschenk 



HAMMOND | The trial of Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, on federal charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and filing false tax returns is scheduled to begin in U.S. District Court on Monday.

The government contends the couple conspired to use campaign cash and food pantry donations to sponsor gambling trips that had put their finances in a tailspin. The trial is expected to last four to five days.

In court filings this week, prosecutors said one of their expert witnesses will be FBI special agent Robert Moledor, who the government said will give testimony placing the Soderquists' cellphones at or near the Four Winds Casino in the New Buffalo, Mich. area and at locations, such as at ATM machines, to these trips.

The government contends the pair improperly took money from the mayor's re-election campaign fund and the city's food pantry and spent it at local casinos from the spring of 2010 through December 2012.

In a recent motion, prosecutors said they anticipate introducing records from the campaign committee, the committee's bank account and area casinos. They contend the records will show an increasing number of ATM withdrawals from the campaign committee bank account — including about a dozen ATM withdrawals in 2010 that were made within 24 hours of trips the Soderquists made to a casino and more than 30 such withdrawals in 2011 and 2012.

In all, the government contends the pair took more than $20,000 through ATM withdrawals from the committee bank account over a period of time for gambling. Prosecutors said none of the withdrawals were listed on campaign finance disclosure forms signed by the couple.

In 2011, the couple also allegedly started withdrawing money from a bank account tied to the Lake Station Food Pantry, which was supported by private donations as well as government funds.

When presented with subpoenas related to the charges, prosecutors said the Soderquists submitted receipts "suggesting certain institutions received money from the campaign committee" Prosecutors, however, contend these were not legitimate reimbursement from the campaign fund.

"Instead, the submission of these receipts are simply further evidence of the defendants' attempt to conceal the conspiracy," prosecutors said.

Prosecutors also talked about what they characterize as the couples' financial decline and contend the couple lost more than $160,000 at the casinos from 2007 to 2013. The government contends evidence of the couple's alleged gambling and financial problems "goes directly to motive and intent."

The government contends the couple withdrew more than $45,000 from retirement accounts in 2009 and 2010 and $5,000 in 2011. After cashing out retirement savings, prosecutors say the couple's financial condition grew worse and in 2010 and 2011 they discharged over $35,000 in credit card debt because they were insolvent. 

Defense attorney Scott King has said prosecutors "got in wrong" in regard to the charges against the couple. Speaking shortly after the indictments came down, King said the couple reimbursed themselves for personal expenses from the mayor's campaign funds and "never touched a penny" of money from the city's food pantry fund.

The couple are also scheduled to stand trial in November along with the mayor's stepdaugher, Miranda Brakley, on separate charges. In that case, they are accused of knowing Brakley took at least $5,000 from the Lake Station City Court and helped prevent her apprehension by police. King has denied they are committed any criminal act in this case as well.












Lake Station, Ind. Resident Stunned By $1,200 Water Bill
August 25, 2015 10:21 PM
CBS News - Chicago, IL


LAKE STATION, Ind. (CBS) — Why would a local city threaten to shut off a man’s water? Because he hasn’t paid the bill.


Why hasn’t he paid the bill? Because he says it’s ten times the normal amount and something is fishy.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports Lake Station, Indiana resident James Williams owes more than $1,200 to the city’s water department. He says there’s no way he used the amount of water the city is billing him for.

James Williams is preparing for the worst. The married father of two expects his water will be turned off because he can’t pay the massive, $1,274.05 bill for using 80,000 gallons of water in just two weeks in May, enough water to fill his kids’ baby pool 29 times.

“It just doesn’t make sense to have a 1,200 dollar bill for anybody,” Williams said. “That’s pretty much paying for the whole city, I feel like.”

Williams, a renter, went to the city for help. The home’s owner met with the mayor. Both were told he owes the money, so, we checked into it.

Mayor Keith Soderquist’s office was empty. Later, Soderquist told Kozlov by phone the new metering system indicated a leak or problem, before readings returned to normal. But the mayor acknowledged the city never checked the meter, which Williams says is underground.
“It’s never even been opened,” Williams said.

Neighbor Charles Pierce says he once had a meter problem that the city checked and fixed.

“For them not to come out here and check the meter, I blame the water department for that,” Pierce said.

Williams says he doesn’t know what else to do.

“I know I did not use 80,000 gallons of water,” he said. “I would hear that.”

Mayor Soderquist recommends Williams come back in and talk to him, or set up a payment schedule. He did not indicate there were plans to check that meter.

The water is scheduled to be shut off Thursday.












Fed attorneys say cell phone records put Lake Station mayor at ATMs, casino
By Teresa Auch Schultz
Post-Tribune
August 25, 2015 - 3:15 PM


Federal attorneys continue to outline evidence they'll use next week during Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist's criminal trial, including cell phone data that supposedly connects visits at ATMs and his trips to a nearby casino.

Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, are accused of using money from his campaign re-election committee and from the Lake Station Food Pantry to pay for numerous gambling trips to the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich.

According to a notice filed Monday in the U.S. District Court in Hammond, the government plans on calling FBI Special Agent Robert Moledor as an expert witness. His testimony is expected to focus on the Soderquists' cell phone data that shows they visited ATMs shortly before they could be found at the casino.

In the notice, the government also says they might call a second expert witness, IRS Forensic Examiner Larry Olsen, during rebuttal if needed. The notice says he would testify on ink and pressure analysis regarding whether unidentified documents were produced later than they appear to have been created.

U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano also granted during a hearing Tuesday morning most of the government's request to bar defense attorneys Scott King and Lakeisha Murdaugh from asking questions that could elicit sympathy from the jurors, such as asking the defendants about their health and mentioning what penalties they face if convicted.

The trial is set to start Monday and is expected to last four to five days. The Soderquists are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing a false tax return.

They're also both charged in a separate case involving Deborah Soderquist's daughter Miranda Brakley, who is accused of stealing money from the city when she worked there as a court clerk. That trial will start in November.












Feds outline evidence against Lake Station mayor
By Teresa Auch Schultz
Post-Tribune
August 24, 2015


Federal attorneys outlined some of the evidence they want to use against Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist when his first trial starts next week, including evidence they say shows the mayor and his wife tried to hide their crimes from investigators.

According to a motion filed Friday in the U.S. District Court in Hammond, federal attorneys want to present receipts that Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, gave them that supposedly explained where money from his campaign re-election committee went.

The government says in the motion, however, that those receipts were an attempt to hide that they had used the money on various gambling trips to nearby casinos.

"...The submission of these receipts are simply further evidence of the defendants' attempt to conceal the conspiracy," the motion says, adding that the evidence shows the Soderquists knew they had committed a crime.

It goes on to outline that conspiracy, saying evidence shows they made more than 40 ATM withdrawals from the mayor's campaign fund within 24 hours of their visits to casinos from 2010 to 2012. The withdrawals totaled more than $20,000, according to the motion.

"The defendants held out the Campaign Committee to donors as one thing - a fund meant to help re-elect Mayor Soderquist - and treated the Campaign Committee money completely at odds with that representation," the motion says.

The government claims they made similar withdrawals from the Lake Station Food Pantry's account, although the motion does not say how much was taken from that account.

The motion argues that these withdrawals match the decline of the Soderquists' finances, including losing $160,000 from gambling over a six-year period ending in 2013.

Evidence shows they withdrew $50,000 from their retirement accounts from 2009 to 2011, according to the motion, and that they discharged $35,000 in credit card debt because they were insolvent and couldn't make payments.

The government is asking a federal judge to allow the use of this evidence during the Soderquists' trial, which is set to start Monday.

Federal attorneys also filed another motion Friday asking that Scott King and Lakeisha Murdaugh, attorneys for the Soderquists, be barred from trying to elicit sympathy for their clients so that the jury would acquit them even if they think the defendants are guilty, which is known as jury nullification.

This includes not asking questions about the Soderquists' age and health, whether the government unfairly focused on them and not other criminals, their previous lack of a criminal history and the possible penalties they face if convicted.

The mayor and his wife were charged in the spring of 2014 with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing a false income tax return. The trial is expected to last four to five days.

Both of the Soderquists are also charged in a second case, along with Deborah Soderquist's daughter, Miranda Brakley, in connection with claims that Brakley stole money from the city when she worked there as a court clerk. That trial is set for November.













Campaign complaints linger long after Lake primary
May 19, 2015 6:04 pm
By Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/elections/campaign-complaints-linger-long-after-lake-primary/article_927afb90-b3fa-5000-9cbb-611ea4847b28.html

CROWN POINT | A political activist demanded Lake County election officials follow through with investigations of the mayors of Gary and Lake Station two weeks after the voters have spoken.

Ken Davidson, who operates the Northwest Indiana Gazette blog, told the county elections board Tuesday to determine whether Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist was within the law last year when he paid $8,500 in campaign funds to his criminal defense lawyer, Scott King of Merrillville.

Soderquist, who lost May 5 to his Democratic primary opponent Christopher Anderson, still awaits trial in August on charges he and his wife gambled at a casino with money diverted from the mayor's campaign treasury and a city food pantry. Soderquist is pleading not guilty.

"Is that a legitimate campaign expense?" Davidson asked the elections board.

"Legal fees are an appropriate expenditure," King responded.

The elections board took the question under advisement for further legal research.

Davidson withdrew complaints about Soderquist paying Frontier Communications $808 for Internet and telephone service and $84 in bank fees after King said the Internet service was used exclusively for the political campaign. King said the bank fees were not penalties for bank overdrafts.

Davidson asked the elections board to act against Chase Street Auto Wrecking of Gary for $2,100 in donations to the Soderquist campaign --  $100 more than the legal limit Indiana for corporation contributions. He also asked them to investigate whether Chase Street made other excessive contributions.

King said Soderquist's campaign will refund the extra $100 if the elections board rules it was excessive.

Davidson also wants an investigation into a $2,000 donation to Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who won the May 5 primary.

Davidson said the 2013 donation was listed on one of her campaign finance reports as coming from the Gary Community School Corp., which isn't allowed to make political contributions.

Freeman-Wilson said earlier this spring the campaign finance report was in error. She said an individual donor gave the money so Gary School Board members could attend one of her political fundraisers.

Elections board members said they will hear further evidence on that matter next month.












Lake Station Full Results: Mayor, Judge, Clerk See New Faces in Race
Ken Davidson
May 6, 2015
The Northwest Indiana Gazette
http://nwigazette.com/2015/05/lake-station-full-results-mayor-judge-clerk-see-new-faces-in-race/

Lake Station residents strongly expressed dissatisfaction with the job of Mayor Keith Soderquist on Tuesday knocking not only him but political ally Brenda Samuels off the ballot. 

Samuels made a plea to separate herself from the indicted Soderquist but ultimately failed. 

Soderquist’s wife, Deborah Soderquist is on the payroll of the clerk-treasurer. Anderson will face off against Republican Edward Peralta in the general election. There is currently no candidate in the Republican spot for clerk-treasurer in the heavily Democratic town.

In the race for the judge seat vacated by Anderson’s choice to run for Mayor, Josh Mateczyk topped Carrie Castro by exactly 200 votes. There was no Republican candidate on the ballot for the Judge spot. James Busch will vie for one of two at-large seats on the Republican ticket and John Zukoski will seek the seat in the 3rd district. The remaining seats did not have Republican candidates on the ballot.

VOTES=1,855 Democrat Mayor Lake Station
510 60.32% Robert Gutzmer
254 13.69% Keith Soderquist
1446 77.95% Christopher A. Anderson













Anderson wins Dem nod in Lake Station mayor race
May 05, 2015 10:00 pm  •
Chas Reilly Times Correspondent
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/elections/anderson-wins-dem-nod-in-lake-station-mayor-race/article_f718f336-ba59-5bcf-9858-f0658786b4be.html





LAKE STATION | The city will have a new mayor in 2016.

Christopher Anderson easily defeated incumbent Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist, and other challengers, Ray Ostrander and Robert Gutzmer, in the Democratic primary.

Sitting on the shoulders of two of his supporters, Anderson, the Lake Station city judge, thanked those who supported him Tuesday.

“You deserve it,” one supporter shouted back at him.

Anderson said he understands the primary was the first step in his goal to become the city’s mayor. He said he is looking forward to working with the Democratic party on his campaign in the general election.

Anderson will face Republican Edward “Ed” Peralta in the November general. Peralta was unopposed in the Republican primary.

Anderson said the residents’ voices haven’t been heard by the city’s administration for years.

“Our voices have been heard today,” he said.

Anderson served as the Lake Station City Court judge for about seven years before he decided to run for mayor. He said he would bring accountability to the mayor’s office.

He said if he is elected in the general election, he will focus on implementing an ethics policy in Lake Station.

“It’s all about good government,” Anderson said. He said ethics training for city employees would begin “right away” if he becomes mayor.

Anderson said all city residents deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and it’s necessary to hear all their concerns to enhance the community.

He said he also is concerned about the city’s financial situation. Anderson said he will work to bring financial stability to the community.

Soderquist couldn’t be immediately reached for comment Tuesday night.

Soderquist, his wife, Deborah, and stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley, are awaiting trial on allegations the mayor and his wife gambled at a casino with money diverted from the mayor's campaign treasury and a city food pantry and tried to cover up the theft of bond money from the city court by the mayor's stepdaughter.












Christopher Anderson, Lake Station mayoral candidate
Published on Apr 24, 2015
nwitimestv

video

Christopher Anderson discusses his top issues in running for Lake Station mayor.












Soderquist trial start delayed until Aug. 31
March 24, 2015 8:00 pm  •  
Jim Masters Times Correspondent



HAMMOND | A federal court granted Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, a third and likely final delay in their federal corruption trial this week.

The Soderquists have pleaded not guilty to an 11-count indictment accusing them of improperly using money from the mayor’s re-election campaign and the city’s food pantry and spending it at local casinos. They also are accused of knowing the mayor's stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley, took at least $5,000 from the Lake Station City Court and helped prevent her apprehension by police.

The Soderquists, who face charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, accessory to theft and tax evasion, are now set for an Aug. 31 trial before U.S. District Court Judge Rudy Lozano. The Soderquists have until five days before trial to submit a plea agreement, court documents stated.

They had been scheduled to go on trial April 27. In a filing from defense attorney Scott King, Mayor Soderquist contended the trial date was one week before the mayor election in Lake Station, and there has been insufficient time to prepare a defense while campaigning for office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson formally objected to delaying the trial.

Lake Station Democrats Robert Gutzmer and Ray Ostrander are challenging Soderquist, who is seeking a third term in office. Also running is Christopher Anderson, who stepped down after seven years as Lake Station city judge in a bid for mayor.

Anderson played a role in starting the federal investigation when he reported the theft of city court bond money to state authorities and fired the mayor's stepdaughter in 2012. He is likely to be called as a witness in the case, court documents stated.












Facing public corruption trial, candidate Soderquist asks for delay
By Teresa Auch Schultz
Post-Tribune
March 16, 2015









Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist wants to delay his two criminal trials again, claiming the current trial date is too close to the May 5 primary.

The trial for both cases is set to start April 27.

Soderquist's attorney, Scott King says in the motion to delay, filed Saturday in the U.S. District Court in Hammond, that the mayor, who is up for re-election, will be too busy to help prepare his defense. The motion also argues that the government still has not turned over all of its evidence, which increases the burden on the defense.

The motion also notes that Lake Station City Judge Chris Anderson, who is running against Soderquist, will likely be a witness in the trial.

King's own trial calendar is also cited. He says in the motion there are three other trials he's involved in that will take place before then, including a murder trial set for the end of March.

Federal attorneys object to the delay, according to the motion.

Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, were charged a year ago in two separate criminal cases. The first one claims they used money from Soderquist's campaign fund and city money meant for the Lake Station food pantry to go on gambling trips. The second one involves Deborah Soderquist's daughter, Miranda Brakley, who used to work for the city. She is charged with stealing money from the city. The Soderquists are charged with acting as accessories after the fact and trying to hide banking activity from the federal government by breaking up one large transaction into several smaller ones.

All three have pleaded not guilty in the case.












Report: Indiana police justified in fatal shooting

Preliminary report: Indiana police justified in fatal shooting outside Lake Station City Hall
The Elkhart Truth
Posted on Dec. 12, 2014 at 1:32 p.m.

LAKE STATION, Ind. (AP) — Three police officers acted properly when they fatally shot an 84-year-old man outside Lake Station City Hall after he fired a shotgun in the air and then moments later pointed it at officers, a preliminary investigation found.

The report released Friday said the Northwest Indiana Major Crimes Task Force determined that “the deadly use of force by the three Lake Station police was justified and their actions potentially prevented other catastrophic events from occurring.”

John Laco of Portage refused to drop the shotgun when ordered to by Lake Station police Lt. John McDaniel and Detectives Dennis Dover and Glenn Gulley, the report said. The officers fired 11 shots at Laco, striking him three times in the head, chest and hand. He died at the scene Tuesday.

The task force will forward a formal report to the Lake County prosecutor’s office for an official independent review of its investigation.

The report said associates described Laco as an angry man who at times suffered from depression. The report also said in 2007 he had stalked a former Lake Station police chief because he was upset how police had handled a juvenile assault case involving a family member.

Lake Station police had rescued Laco from his burning home shortly after midnight on Feb. 20, the report said. Earlier this month, the city had ordered him to demolish the home after he had previously been cited for not cutting the grass or cleaning up debris.

“He frequently made negative comments about the Lake Station mayor and how the city was trying to force him to demolish his fire-damaged residence,” the report said.

Police say the day before Laco was fatally shot, a neighbor of Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist reported hearing what he thought was a gunshot and saw a dark sport utility vehicle driving away. The mayor was not at home and the neighbor didn’t call police.

Authorities learned of what the neighbor heard while investigating Laco’s death. Police said they didn’t find any damage to the mayor’s house, but found a shotgun shell “consistent” with a shell found outside City Hall after Laco fired the shotgun. They also noted that a black Dodge Caliber Laco owned is similar in description to the vehicle the neighbor said he saw, but said they couldn’t say with any certainty whether Laco was involved.

Soderquist told police he didn’t know Laco or have any previous interaction with him.












Neighbors shocked by Laco's shooting death
December 10, 2014
NWI Times








LAKE STATION | Three boarded up windows at the Lake Station-New Chicago branch of the Lake County Public Library were the only reminders of gunfire that ended the life of John Laco, 84, on Tuesday.

About a mile away, neighbors of Laco's burned out former home at 2701 Central Ave. said they were shocked by the death because Laco always seemed so nice. Mike, at Mike's Gas Stop across the street from the home, said Laco used to come in all the time to buy lottery tickets, a newspaper and Little Debbie cakes, and frequently complained about City Hall.

"He put up cardboard signs in front of his house complaining about the taxes," said Mike, who would not give his last name.

The siding on Laco's home is melted and looks like torn, dirty sheets, and much of the exterior is charred. A fire there Feb. 20 was blamed on faulty electrical extension cords. Laco was pulled from the building by police officers and was treated for smoke inhalation, a neighbor said.

Lisa Krebs, who lives across the street to the west of the charred structure, said Laco knew her grandfather and she's known him since she was a small child.

"I used to give him rides to different places," Krebs said. "He was a pretty decent guy. I never had any problems with him. I saw him in the hospital a couple of times after the fire."

She said his house smells bad in the summer and she expected it to be torn down, but nothing has happened.

She called Tuesday's shooting death at the library/City Hall complex "shocking." And, like several others who knew him, she saw nothing before to indicate he would do anything rash.

Police said Laco was sitting in his car with the barrel of a shotgun sticking out the window. He was ordered by police to drop the gun and exit the car. As he exited the car, Laco allegedly pointed the gun at police, who opened fire, striking Laco several times. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The shooting is still under investigation.

"He always complained about his water bill," Krebs said. "Everybody says the water bill is too high."

"It's sad, but you can't do that," Krebs said of Laco's alleged actions with the gun.

Jim and Jeannette Hamilton own the engine repair shop next to Laco's home and said they occasionally helped him out. Their son Mitch would mow Laco's lawn, and Jim would do small repairs for Laco. He said Laco would offer to pay for it, but Hamilton refused the offer as a gesture of goodwill between neighbors. They described the relationship with Laco as neighborly without any problems.

Betty Ortiz said Laco came into her Central Laundromat regularly and would talk a bit.

"He was a very clean-cut man," Ortiz said. "He looked like my father would in the old days. This was a sad thing, especially since we knew him and he died that way."

Her daughter Julie Ortiz said Laco often came into the video store where she worked 20 years ago and was always very nice.

"When I found out it was him, I couldn't believe it," Julie Ortiz said. "He wasn't somebody we would complain about, but he wasn't somebody you just chatted with."












Man killed by Lake Station police had been saved by them months before
December 10, 2014
Sarah Reese and Joyce Russell Times Staff Writers
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/police-id-armed-man-killed-in-lake-station-city-hall/article_855e61f0-a6ef-597b-94c0-7a54b29f5f69.html

















LAKE STATION | An 84-year-old man who was pulled from a burning building by police 10 months ago was shot and killed by officers Tuesday after pointing a shotgun at them, officials said.

John Laco, who had addresses in Lake Station and Portage, fired a 16-gauge shotgun into the air in the parking lot outside Lake Station City Hall and got back into his vehicle, said Bob Byrd, spokesman for the Lake County Northwest Indiana Major Crimes Task Force.

Three police officers who had been inside the police station went to investigate about 10:30 a.m. after police received a call about a man with a gun, Byrd said.

The officers saw Laco sitting in his vehicle with a window rolled down and the barrel of a shotgun sticking out the window, Byrd said. Police told Laco to drop the weapon and exit the car.

Laco began exiting the vehicle and pointed the shotgun at police, who fired several times, Byrd said.

Laco was shot multiple times and was pronounced dead at 12:45 p.m., a Lake County coroner's release said.

Byrd did not say how many times Laco was shot and did not release the names of the police officers involved in the shooting.

An inoperable pellet gun that looked like a handgun was found in Laco's sweatshirt, Byrd said. Police were not aware of that weapon until after Laco's death, he said.

Police are investigating whether a report of a gunshot Monday night outside Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist's home, which is in a neighborhood south of City Hall, is connected to Laco, officials said.

"We are still talking to witnesses on the nature of the call," Lake Station Police Chief Kevin Garber said at a news conference Tuesday.

Soderquist declined comment Tuesday pending the police investigation.

Soderquist was not at City Hall on Tuesday when the shooting happened, officials said. Police had no indication that Laco ever entered City Hall, Byrd said.

One of Soderquist's neighbors, Tim Brewer, said he and his wife heard a loud gunshot Monday night.

"I heard it and I'm like, 'Holy cow.' It was loud. It had to be a shotgun or a large caliber," Brewer said.

Brewer said he went outside and didn't see anything. However, he had seen a suspicious dark-colored vehicle parked in two different locations in the area before he heard the gunshot, he said.

Byrd said there is no clear motive for why Laco went to City Hall on Tuesday.

Police have been interviewing Laco's family, including his children, and friends to help determine a motive. Laco was not married. Byrd said there is no indication Laco was suffering from dementia.

Before Tuesday, Laco had little contact with police other than the time they rescued him from the fire, Byrd said.

A Lake Station police officer on patrol the night of Feb. 20 found Laco's residence at 2701 Central Ave., on fire.

Several officers responded and pulled Laco from the burning building, Byrd said. Laco was taken to a hospital.

There was no indication of arson, Byrd said. The fire's cause was determined to be faulty electrical extension cords, he said.

Byrd said about 20 detectives from departments around the region were working the case with the Northwest Indiana Major Crimes Task Force, including officers from the Lake County Sheriff's Department and Indiana State Police.

Police blocked off Central Avenue for much of the day, rerouting traffic through the neighborhood to the south.

Yellow tape was strung around the perimeter of the City Hall property and the Lake Station-New Chicago branch of the Lake County Public Library, which sits just east of City Hall and shares the parking lot.

Two windows and a door at the library branch were damaged in the shooting, said Carolyn Strickland, assistant director for the library system.

Police believe the library was damaged by stray bullets from the gunfire and was not an intended target, Byrd said. It's a "real possibility" the shots that damaged the library came from police, he said.

Fifteen to 20 patrons and employees were inside the branch at the time of the shooting, officials said. No injuries were reported.

The branch was closed after the shooting, and police interviewed each person inside, Strickland said. People were allowed to leave the library following police interviews, but they were not permitted to remove their vehicles until police took down yellow tape from around the parking lot about 4 p.m., Strickland said.

The branch will reopen at 10 a.m. Wednesday, she said.

Ingrid Norris, director of the Lake County Public Library, who was present during the news conference, praised the Police Department.

"The Lake Station police were terrific. They calmed the patrons down, calmed the staff down," she said.

Norris also praised her staff members for how they handled the situation.

Jesus Ruiz, a mechanic at nearby San Juan Tire Shop, said he heard a loud bang about 10:30 a.m. as he and others were putting on gloves and hats in preparation for work.

Ruiz said he initially thought it was a tire bursting at the shop, which sits on the north side of Central Avenue across from City Hall.

The first bang was followed by about a dozen gunshots, he said.

When Ruiz made it outside, he saw smoke rising from near the entrance to City Hall and heard police yelling at a someone to get on the ground, he said.

Ruiz saw a man had been shot in the parking lot between City Hall and the library, he said. A dark-colored vehicle that had been near the man's body was towed from the parking lot about 2:40 p.m., he said.

Ruiz pointed to a white and red cloth on the ground and said it had been used to cover the man before his body was removed from the scene by coroner's officials.

Fire Department personnel arrived after 3 p.m. and began to clean the spot where Ruiz said the body had been.

"To think about it — you're just working and somebody gets shot," Ruiz said. "That's something else."

Tom Nikalaj, of nearby Joe's Auto Sales at 1900 Central Ave., said he was in the business Tuesday morning when he heard gunshots.

Nikalaj said he opened the front door and heard police yelling at a man to get down before he heard 10 to 14 shots.

"It was like watching a movie," Nikalaj said. 


Nikalaj said he planned to go to City Hall to pay his water bill Tuesday morning but decided to vacuum some of the cars in the lot first.













Elderly man fatally shot by Indiana police after firing shotgun
POSTED 2:02 PM, DECEMBER 9, 2014
WGN WEB DESK
CLTV - Chicago Land TV
http://cltv.com/2014/12/09/elderly-man-fatally-shot-by-indiana-police-after-firing-shotgun/

Authorities in Lake Station, Indiana continue to investigate a police shooting that resulted in the death of an elderly man Tuesday morning.

84-year-old John Laco was shot by officers in the parking lot of city hall just before 10:30 a.m., moments after Laco is alleged to have fired a single round into the air from a 16 gauge shotgun.

Police found him inside his car moments later, with the shotgun barrel sticking out the window.

“They ordered the individual to drop the weapon and show his hand. The suspect at that time then opened the car door and began to exit the car with the shotgun pointed at the officers at which time all three officers began to fire,” said Bob Byrd of Northwest Indiana Major Crimes Task Force.

Several rounds hit Laco killing him, as well as breaking a window at the nearby library, prompting a temporary lockdown there.

Police later found an inoperative pellet gun inside Laco’s sweatshirt pocket.

Ironically, Lake Station officers saved Laco’s life in February of this year during a late-night electrical fire at his home.

It is still unknow why Laco was outside city hall today and why he fired the single gunshot.

“Right now we’re interviewing family members trying to determine what that notice may have been. We have none at this time,” Byrd said.

There was some sort of altercation at the home of Lake Station mayor Keith Soderquist yesterday afternoon.   Neither the police chief or mayor would confirm if Laco was involved in that, saying only that the investigation is ongoing.


An autopsy scheduled for tomorrow












Police Shoot, Kill Elderly Man Armed With Shotgun Outside Lake Station City Hall
December 9, 2014 1:30 PM
CBS News - Chicago
http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2014/12/09/police-shoot-kill-elderly-man-armed-with-shotgun/

CHICAGO (CBS) – Police say an 84-year-old man who was burned out of his home less than a year ago fired a shotgun Tuesday outside the City Hall in Lake Station, Indiana, east of Gary, and confronted police, who killed him.

The gunman, identified by police and the Lake County coroner as John Laco, had moved from friend’s home to friend’s home since the Feb. 10 fire, when different Lake Station officers saved his life.

Lake County Major Crimes Task Force spokesman Robert Byrd said bystanders called 911 at about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday to report that Laco held a shotgun aloft and fired it once into the air in the parking lot shared by the Lake Station municipal complex and public library.

Three officers responded within moments to find the barrel of the shotgun hanging outside the driver’s window to Laco’s car. Byrd said that when the officers ordered Laco to drop the gun, he allegedly emerged from the car to confront them, “with the shotgun pointed at the officers, at which time all three police officers began to fire” at Laco. The number of shots was not immediately clear, although witnesses said they heard more than a dozen shots.

The gunfire broke a window in the public library, which police placed on lockdown until police could determine that Laco acted alone. Byrd said the task force is trying to determine if Laco is the person who fired a shot 18 hours earlier at Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist’s home.

Soderquist had been at City Hall 10-15 minutes before the shooting, but Byrd said Soderquist had left the area.

Byrd said there is no known bad blood between the men. But Soderquist is under indictment on charges of using campaign funds and money from the city’s food pantry to feed a gambling addiction, charges Soderquist has denied.

In fact, Byrd said, the February fire is the only contact of consequence police had with Laco before Tuesday. Laco suffered only minor injuries in the February fire, and was released at the time after treatment at St. Mary’s Hospital, in Hobart.

Byrd said the task force has mobilized 20 detectives from various Lake County departments, as well as the Lake County Sheriff’s Department and Indiana State Police.









*******************

Federal Charges have not been dropped against Mayor Keith Soderquist, Deborah Soderquist, and Miranda Brakley!



Apparently, there is a rumor being spread around Lake Station by Mayor Kieth Soderquist himself, claiming that federal charges against him, his wife and his step-daughter were dropped. NOT TRUE AT ALL. 

Keith Soderquist's, Deborah Soderquist's and Miranda Brakley's trials - orginally scheduled for July 14th - were rescheduled  for October 20, 2014. 

On September 19th, Soderquists filed motions with the U.S. District Court to have their October trials rescheduled to February 2015.

Meanwhile, City employees assumed charges had been dropped because the Mayor was still in office. NOTE: there is no current law preventing an official in Indiana from keeping their position while they are under federal indictment for criminal charges.

Other mysteries at Lake Station involve residents' property tax bills getting "lost" in the mail - and why mortgage companies are not questioning where these tax bills are. Unfortunately, residents do not find out about this until they receive a letter informing them their home is being sold from under them for unpaid back taxes. And, where does one begin about  Mayor Soderquist / Lake  Station now being in the business of flipping houses - one of which was recently a home that the city received from a bank - and something about Soderquist Construction Company? Ahem.

*******************













Lake Station mayor, wife seek trial delay
Post-Tribune (IN) - 
Saturday, September 20, 2014 

Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist , his wife and his stepdaughter are seeking to delay their criminal trials until February. 

In two motions filed Friday in the U.S. District Court in Hammond, attorneys for Soderquist and his family say that his wife, Deborah Soderquist , is experiencing health problems that make it impossible for her to take part in her two trials, which are scheduled to begin Oct. 20. 

They are asking that the trials be continued until at least February. 

A federal grand jury indicted Soderquist and his wife in April in two separate cases. In the first case, the two are accused of using money from the mayor’s election campaign fund and money meant for Lake Station’s food pantry for personal use, including several gambling trips to Michigan. 

In the second case, Deborah Soderquist ’s daughter, Miranda Blakely, is charged with stealing money from the city when she worked there as a court clerk and not reporting it as income when she filed for bankruptcy. 

The mayor and his wife are charged in that case with helping her after the fact and with money structuring. 

All three have pleaded not guilty in the case. 












Soderquists cite health issue in seeking trial delay
September 19, 2014 7:20 pm  
NWI Times
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/lake-station/soderquists-cite-health-issue-in-seeking-trial-delay/article_d6456679-7aa3-5f49-bbd2-589e713b0038.html

Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife and stepdaughter have asked the federal court to delay their trials until early next year.

Keith Soderquist, his wife, Deborah Soderquist, and stepdaughter Miranda Brakley, had been scheduled to go on trial Oct. 20.

Deborah Soderquist has developed a health issue that will make it impossible for her to participate in trial until no earlier than February, attorneys for the Soderquists and Brakley said in two motions filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Hammond.

The government did not object to granting the motion.

Soderquist and his wife are accused by the government of improperly using money from the city's food pantry and his re-election campaign at local casinos.

Both pleaded not guilty to a total 15 criminal charges spanning two criminal indictments.

The second indictment alleges the couple knew that Brakley pocketed at least $5,000 from the Lake Station City Court and helped prevent apprehension.


The April indictments came after the fall 2013 execution of search warrants at Lake Station City Hall.












Lake Station taps casino money to help pay bills
Post-Tribune (IN) 
Friday, August 29, 2014 

LAKE STATION — The City Council approved a request from Mayor Keith Soderquist last week to pour $420,000 of casino revenue into the flagging general fund, but at least one councilman cried foul. 

Councilman Don Huddleston, 2nd District, said the mayor sprang the decision on the council without advanced discussion. He also said the city should have been using the money to fix roads and sewage problems all along. 

“I have roads in my district that need to be paved,” Huddleston said. “How did our budget get so bad in the red? We’ve got sewage running out into people’s yards every time it rains. That money should never have been accumulated in the first place.” 

The city gets about $125,000 a year in casino tax revenues, about a third of what it used to get, and keeps it in a fund for road and infrastructure improvements, Soderquist said. The city spent only some of the fund over the past five years, accumulating the money the council moved into the general fund, which is often in the red here. 

Like all taxing districts, Lake Station has had to adjust to far less revenue due to permanent property tax caps added as an amendment to the state constitution in 2010. 

At $4.2 million, the general fund, including $2.3 million for public safety, had to be shored up, and cutting money from the police and fire departments to save money was not an option, Soderquist said. 

“When you tally all of the funds, you have the total amount in (the city’s) checkbook,” he said. “If the money’s not there, overall, to spend, we don’t spend it. We definitely have paved the streets and worked on the infrastructure, but not all of it. (The casino fund has) accumulated extra funds.” 

The mayor also said the city will spend about $230,000 on street improvements this year. 

Soderquist ’s request passed 5-2. The majority of council members generally side with the mayor’s requests, while two members, Huddleston and Harry Pedroza Jr. , 4th District, are often in the minority on key votes. 

Soderquist frequently has said he inherited massive budget deficits from former Mayor Shirley Wadding. He was a councilman-at-large for eight years before becoming mayor in 2007. 

Huddleston dismissed Soderquist ’s claims. 

“( Soderquist ’s) always blaming the old administration, but he was part of that administration for eight years. How can he keep blaming the old administration?” he said. “Then, all of a sudden, out of the blue, it’s on the council’s agenda. All of a sudden it’s the whole (accumulated amount), he’s got to have the whole apple.” 













Attorney: Minor scam tried to set up mayor 
Post-Tribune (IN) 
Wednesday, July 30, 2014 

LAKE STATION — Mayor Keith Soderquist ’s attorney says someone tried to make it appear that his client, who’s under federal indictment for allegedly stealing public funds, made a private purchase recently at a retail store using city funds. 

Scott King said Tuesday that Soderquist was preparing payable invoices for the first city council meeting of July when he noticed a $70 invoice for lumber from the Portage Menards store, with which the city has an account. 

The invoice used the city account number, but instead of listing the city as the purchaser, it listed “ Soderquist Construction,” with the mayor ’s home address and phone number, although the street name was incorrect, according to King, who said Soderquist has never been in the construction business. 

The mayor called city employee James Moss, who made the purchase and said he didn’t pay attention to the receipt when he took it from the store clerk, King said. Police Chief Kevin Garber also questioned Moss before contacting Porter County sheriff’s police to investigate the incident. 

Menards identified the clerk who handled the sale, now the main suspect, King said, adding that he’s not convinced the man acted alone. 

“This is more than just a misguided sense of humor,” he said. 

“Whoever did this really went out of their way to make it look like the mayor used the public account for private gain, and I hope the federal government looks into this as vigorously as they are my client.” 

Soderquist didn’t return a call Tuesday for comment. 

Whoever’s responsible for the receipt could face charges of forgery, harassment and theft, King said, as well as a lawsuit by Soderquist . 
Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, are charged with stealing money from the Lake Station Food Pantry — which receives money from city and state tax dollars as well as donations — and the mayor ’s campaign fund for their personal use, including dozens of trips to Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan, from 2010 to 2012. 

A second federal indictment accuses Soderquist ’s stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley, 33, a former city court clerk, of stealing at least $5,000 in bond money from city court from August 2011 to July 2012 and hiding $7,000 in income from her bankruptcy case, which she filed in August 2012. The Soderquists are also charged with helping Brakley hide the thefts and violate federal banking law. 













False invoice information appears to frame Lake Station mayor
July 29, 2014 3:30 pm 
NWI Times
MERRILLVILLE | The lawyer for Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist is calling for further investigation over what he said are attempts to frame his client.

Attorney Scott King said Soderquist discovered an invoice charging a lumber purchase to the city account in the name of Soderquist Construction, a company that doesn't exist, King said.

Soderquist found the invoice dated June 26, 2014, while preparing documents earlier this month for submission to the Lake Station Board of Works for payment, King said.

The invoice lists the mayor's home street number but wrong street name as the address of the nonexistent construction company, and lists Soderquist's City Hall office number, King said.

"The mayor does not and never has operated any construction business of any description and is unaware of any company by the name of Soderquist Construction," King said.

King said the Lake Station city employee who bought the lumber didn't notice the false information regarding the purchaser until he was questioned by Soderquist July 11. The employee bought the lumber at a Portage Menards store for repairs to a city-owned trailer for use in the Lake Station July Fourth festivities, King said.

The employee denied to Soderquist and to King's office having anything to do with the inclusion of falsities on the invoice, King said.

King represents Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, in a pending case filed in U.S. District Court alleging they improperly used money from the city's food pantry and his re-election campaign at local casinos.

Both pleaded not guilty to a total 15 criminal charges spanning two corruption indictments.

The second indictment alleges the couple knew the mayor's stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley, pocketed at least $5,000 from the Lake Station City Court and helped prevent apprehension.

The April indictments came after the fall 2013 execution of search warrants at Lake Station City Hall.

King said in the Tuesday release he hoped "a full investigation by the Porter County Police will uncover the scope of what was attempted here."

"The federal government should investigate this matter with the same zeal they have pursued and continue to pursue my clients," Scott said in the release.

Porter County Sheriff's Department public information officer Sgt. Larry LaFlower said Tuesday the department has no involvement in the Soderquist case. Portage Police Chief Troy Williams said no reports have been filed in connection with the purchase from Menards, but if one is filed his department would investigate.

King said in the past several months his office had been made aware of other instances of false statements regarding Soderquist being made in public and in private, and believes that some can be traced to political rivals of the mayor.












Lake Station set to flip its first home
Post-Tribune (IN) 
Monday, July 28, 2014 
Author: Michael Gonzalez 

LAKE STATION — The city’s foray into flipping houses it already owns claimed a success Friday after the Board of Works agreed to sell a property city workers fixed up to put on the market earlier this year. 

The board expects to sell a home at 4800 26th St., on the city’s east side, for $94,000 after investing $28,000 to fix it up earlier this year. That sale should close within the next 75 days, Mayor Keith Soderquist said. 

“I’m told houses these days are selling in 75 to 100 days, so we’re actually better than the average,” he said. 

Soderquist declined to name the buyer, saying he believes it is a Lake Station man buying his first home. 

The proceeds from that sale will be used to start remodeling another home near 24th Avenue and Clay Street. 

City employees did the work on the 26th Street property, which sat abandoned for several years. A divorce by its previous owners left the property unattended and falling apart, including significant water damage. It was part of a bank’s holdings for four years. 

The city acquired the property from the bank, paying nothing, and later used a special budget line to begin turning the house around in order to sell it, Soderquist said. 

If the city can sell the house near Clay Street after remodeling, those funds will be used for a third fixer-upper. 












EDITORIAL: IU study a reminder of corruption's cost
July 16, 2014 12:00 am 
The Times Editorial Board 
The revolving door between Northwest Indiana local government offices and the Hammond federal courthouse often makes our region the butt of public corruption jokes locally and abroad.

But it's not so funny when you consider the actual impact of public corruption on government coffers -- and thus taxpayers' wallets.

A recently released Indiana University study sought to rank levels of public corruption by state and put a monetary value on the misdeeds of public officials. The results were eye-popping and the lessons applicable to Northwest Indiana, even though the Hoosier state wasn't on the list of the study's 10 worst.

Northwest Indiana's public officials -- and more importantly the voters who put them in office -- should soak in this important study.

The public policy professors who led the study concluded the 10 most corrupt states -- including Illinois -- would have spent 5.2 percent less between 1997 and 2008 had those states been more like the ones with lower levels of corruption.

As part of the review, study leaders reviewed more than 25,000 federal corruption convictions of state and local officials between 1976 and 2008.

The good news for Hoosiers is highly corrupt Illinois spent $923.47 more per resident than Indiana, which fell somewhere in the mid tier of corruption among states, the study concluded. During that same time period, Indiana spent more than twice as much from its general fund on education as Illinois did during the study's parameters.

The bad news -- not reflected in the study -- is public corruption continues a historically rampant run in Northwest Indiana, and the price tag is probably higher than any of us wants to accept.

About 60 people -- mostly Northwest Indiana elected officials, vendors with public contracts or other political power brokers -- have been convicted of public corruption in U.S. District Court since 1985.

Each case likely represents dozens of legal proceedings, court filings and countless investigative hours by federal law enforcement -- all in addition to the direct costs to taxpayers of the actual crimes.

It doesn't seem to have improved in recent years, either. Former Lake County Surveyor George Van Til pleaded guilty in December to using the resources of his government office to further his campaign.

Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist, his wife and stepdaughter remain under federal indictment in a pending case on charges including stealing from a campaign fund and the city's food pantry. 

They are innocent unless proven guilty.

And federal agents raided the Calumet Township trustee's office in the spring, seizing boxes of evidence and a computer in an ongoing probe.

The IU study reminds us there is a cost to these types of cases that goes beyond reputation and embarrassment.

The sum of all those costs -- monetary and otherwise -- should be enough for taxpayers to demand more accountability from their leaders.












Lake Station mayor's niece among four arrested during police raids
June 12, 2014 8:30 pm
Elvia Malagon
NWI Times
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/hammond/lake-station-mayor-s-niece-among-four-arrested-during-police/article_5af81d60-76cd-50dd-bfdb-4a069b9cf91c.html


HAMMOND | Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist's niece was among four people arrested Wednesday during searches of homes in Gary and Hammond, officials said. 

Amber Soderquist, 24, of Hammond, faces charges of dealing in a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance, according to a news release from the Lake County Sheriff's Department. Her grandmother, Jane Soderquist, confirmed that Keith Soderquist is the woman's uncle.

Lake County officers searched a home in the 6500 block of Grand Avenue in Hammond after receiving tips that there was illegal activity going on in the home. 

According to the release, officers found 10 grams of cocaine, ecstasy and molly in the home. Molly is a form of ecstasy. 

Along with Amber Soderquist, Malawchee Gray, 38, of Matteson, Ill., was arrested and faces the same charges, police said. 

Lake County deputies also searched a home in the 300 block of Fillmore Street in Gary where officers found 22 grams of heroin, cocaine and a stolen handgun. 

Zachary Artis and Carlton Spurlock, both 40, and of Gary, were arrested in that raid. Both face charges of dealing a narcotic drug, possession of a controlled substance and being a felon in possession of a handgun, according to the news release.

Amber Soderquist previously pleaded guilty in 2011 in Lake County Criminal Court to a charge of possession of cocaine and was sentenced to probation, according to court records.

Keith Soderquist did not return a phone call and email seeking comment. Jane Soderquist said she was surprised by the charges and said her granddaughter is a good person. 

Keith Soderquist is facing pending federal charges in a different matter. He and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, are accused of pocketing city food pantry funds and campaign funds. According to court records, the couple used some of the money at local casinos and failed to report the money on tax returns. 

His stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley, also is facing federal charges and is accused of stealing at least $5,000 from the Lake Station City Court, according to court records. The mayor and his wife are accused of helping conceal the alleged theft. 












Federal trials for Lake Station mayor pushed back to October 
Post-Tribune (IN) 
Saturday, May 31, 2014 

Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist ’s two criminal trials will be delayed until Oct. 20. 

U.S. District Court in Hammond granted Soderquist ’s request to move the trials from their original date of July 14. 

Scott King, who is representing Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist , and Thomas Vanes, who is representing Soderquist ’s stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley, both requested the continuance Thursday. According to their motions, the large amount of evidence given to them from the government and their own busy schedules meant they would not be ready to go to trial by July. 

Soderquist and his wife were charged in April in two separate cases. In one, the federal government has accused them of using city money meant for the Lake Station Food Pantry and money from his own political campaign for their personal use, including gambling. 

The second case charges Brakley with stealing from the city of Lake Station, where she used to work as a clerk for the town court. Soderquist and his wife are charged in that case with being an accessory after the fact and with money structuring. 












Soderquist, Brakley trial reset for October
May 30, 2014 2:30 pm 
NWI Times
Marc Chase 

HAMMOND | The public corruption trial for Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist, his wife and stepdaughter has been rescheduled to Oct. 20, federal court records filed Friday state.

Soderquist, his wife Deborah Soderquist and stepdaughter Miranda Brakley had been scheduled to be tried July 14 in U.S. District Court, Hammond, on charges alleging 15 total counts spanning two public corruption indictments.

The Soderquist couple's defense attorney, Scott King, sought the trial continuance based in part on "voluminous" evidence from the government that is still coming in to his office requiring review.

King has claimed federal prosecutors "got it wrong" in charging Keith Soderquist, 44, and Deborah Soderquist, 55, with charges alleging they stole city food pantry and campaign funds, gambled away some of the proceeds and failed to report the allegedly stolen cash as income on tax returns.

Prosecutors also allege the couple knew the mayor's stepdaughter, Brakley, stole at least $5,000 from the Lake Station City Court and helped Brakley conceal the theft.













Soderquist returns to council meeting
May 22, 2014 9:40 pm
NWI Times
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/lake-station/soderquist-returns-to-council-meeting/article_b76a92e6-7555-5112-9c82-5dabbb7ecf18.html

LAKE STATION | For the first time since pleading not guilty to multiple corruption charges in April, Mayor Keith Soderquist returned to chair the City Council meeting Thursday.

When asked after the meeting by a Times reporter, the mayor had no comment about the charges against him, his wife, Deborah, and stepdaughter Miranda Brakley. The trio pleaded not guilty to a total of 15 criminal charges in Hammond federal court.

Soderquist and the mayor's wife are alleged to have stolen food pantry and campaign funds, and gambled away some of the proceeds while reporting the allegedly stolen cash as income on their tax returns.

Councilman Rick Long, at the end of the meeting, told a Times reporter the mayor will have his day in court and will have to regain the public’s trust.

Only about 10 residents appeared at the meeting, which was not open to general comments, only what was on the agenda. The next meeting open for general comments from the public is June 5.


In other news, Councilman Harry Pedroza expressed interest in creating an ordinance banning saggy pants. Cities and towns across the country have recently been passing ordinances banning overly sagging pants.












Judge seals report in Soderquist case
April 21, 2014 8:15 pm
NWI Times
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/lake-station/judge-seals-report-in-soderquist-case/article_7674fc09-d584-5a06-9719-e7b8ce363bb4.html

HAMMOND | The public will not be allowed to view the pretrial bond report on indicted Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist.

Soderquist, 44, his wife, Deborah Soderquist, 55, and the mayor's stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley, 33, were each released on a $20,000 unsecured bond last week after pleading not guilty to a total of 15 criminal charges spanning two public corruption indictments.

The court, however, ruled the public or other defendants would not be allowed to see Keith Soderquist's pretrial bond report, which typically contains background information in helping the judge set bail such as any past criminal history that may exist.

U.S. Magistrate Judge John E. Martin also imposed some additional conditions on the bond. The Soderquists are not allowed to travel outside the U.S. District Court of Indiana without communicating their whereabouts to federal probation officers, surrender any weapons to a third party, and not visit any casinos.


In one indictment, Keith and Deborah Soderquist each face charges of pocketing money from the city's food pantry and the mayor's re-election campaign, in part for gambling at Indiana and Michigan casinos. A second federal indictment alleges the couple knew the mayor's stepdaughter, Brakley, stole at least $5,000 from the Lake Station City Court and helped her conceal the theft.












Lake Station tax preparer to plead guilty to fraud
Post-Tribune (IN) 
Monday, May 19, 2014 

A Lake Station tax preparer stole at least $400,000 and possibly up to $1 million by falsifying his clients’ tax returns to inflate their refunds and pocket the extra money, according to a plea agreement filed in federal court in Hammond. 

Michael Nash, 39, who was indicted in February, will plead guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and aggravated identity theft, the agreement indicates. 

It says Nash will admit that he paid someone, identified by federal authorities only as Individual A, whom he knew was filing false tax returns for client referrals. Nash would provide false information on these clients’ returns so it appeared they were due a larger refund than they actually were entitled to receive, the agreement says. 

Prosecutors said he would not tell many of the clients about the bigger refunds, directing that the extra money be deposited into his bank account. 

In addition, Nash used information from some clients to file their tax returns without their knowledge, pocketing all of the refunds in those cases, according to the indictment. 

Feds want to prevent evidence leak 

Federal prosecutors are seeking a protection order for all evidence against Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife that the government shares with his lawyers. 

The evidence is sensitive, and prosecutors want to make sure that it be used by the defendants and their attorneys only for their defense, according to motions filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Hammond. 

Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, are charged with taking money from the city food pantry and using his campaign fund for their personal use, including on numerous gambling trips, from 2010 to 2012. 

They also are charged in a separate case with helping Deborah Soderquist ’s daughter, Miranda Brakley, try to hide her theft of money from city court, where she worked as a clerk until she was fired in June 2012. 

Brakley is charged with theft and income tax evasion. All three have pleaded not guilty. 












Prosecutors ask for protective order in Soderquist cases 
Post-Tribune (IN) 
Friday, May 16, 2014 

Federal attorneys in Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist ’s two criminal cases want a protection order for all evidence they share with the defendants. 

According to motions filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, the government’s evidence is sensitive, and prosecutors are asking that it be used by the defendants and their attorneys only for their defense. 

Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist , are charged with using city and his campaign money for their personal use, including gambling trips. They are also charged in a separate case with acting as accessories after the fact in the alleged crime of Deborah Soderquist ’s daughter, Miranda Brakley, stealing money from the city and with money structuring. Brakley is also charged in that case. 

All three have pleaded not guilty. 












Indicted mayor again skips council meeting 
Post-Tribune (IN) 
Friday, May 2, 2014 

LAKE STATION — The television camera crews were a no-show at Thursday night’s city council meeting, but so was Mayor Keith Soderquist . 

Soderquist , his wife, Deborah, who is also his secretary, and his stepdaughter Miranda Brakley were indicted by a federal grand jury on a host of charges two weeks ago. 

The Soderquists face corruption charges related to using money from his campaign fund and the city food pantry for their personal use. Brakley was indicted for allegedly misusing city court funds and a false bankruptcy filing. 

The mayor , who regularly chairs council meetings, did not attend the last meeting two weeks ago, a day after the indictments were announced. That day, Chicago and local media and dozens of residents packed the council chambers, peppering council members with complaints and criticisms. 

Soderquist ’s absence Thursday drew mixed reactions from council members and those in the audience. 

“( Soderquist ’s) been to almost every meeting, so why, all of a sudden since the indictment ... he can’t attend the meeting?,” asked Cindy Daniels. “That just proves to the people he’s hiding.” 

Former food pantry director Linda Newton blasted Soderquist for missing the meeting, calling him a “coward.” Newton left the pantry early in Soderquist ’s administration, but she said her feelings were not related to their falling out. 

“This is not sour grapes. It’s doing what’s right for the people,” she said. 

Several councilmen said Soderquist has been working in his office recently, but they could not explain his absence from two consecutive council sessions. Todd Rogers, 3rd District, again chaired Thursday’s council meeting. 

“I would think ( Soderquist is) not hiding behind the indictments,” said Todd Lara, councilman at-large and a frequent supporter of the mayor . “He’s still running the city, as far as I know. He hasn’t been convicted of anything, though he’s been tarnished in the papers. Technically, by law, he doesn’t have to show up (at meetings) at all.” 

Councilman Harry Pedroza, 4th District, who has been criticized by other members for his meeting attendance, said, “When my attendance is questioned, why isn’t his? He was (attending) before, and he expected everybody else to be here.” 












Public corruption suspect permitted to travel to Chicago for work
May 02, 2014 1:45 pm 
NWI Times

HAMMOND | A former Lake Station city court clerk indicted on public corruption charges has been granted permission to travel to Chicago for work, Hammond federal court records show.

Miranda Brakley, 33, sought the permission earlier this week to travel to Chicago for employment after recently being indicted in federal court along with her stepfather, Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist, and the mayor's wife, Deborah Soderquist.

Brakley, 33, argued in court papers she was placed on unpaid administrative leave by Omnicare in Griffith following an indictment alleging she stole at least $5,000 from the Lake Station City Court and was helped by the Soderquists in concealing the theft.
On Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge John E. Martin granted Brakley permission to travel outside of the Northern District of Indiana for part-time work as a pharmacy technician at St. Bernard's Hospital in Chicago, court records show. She is allowed to travel to Chicago for "work-related purposes only," the judge's ruling states.

Brakley is free on a $20,000 unsecured bond pending trial.

Brakley, Keith Soderquist, 44, and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, 55, pleaded not guilty in April to a total of 15 criminal charges spanning two public corruption indictments.












Brakley asks to ease travel restrictions
Post-Tribune (IN) 
Friday, May 2, 2014 

Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist ’s stepdaughter, charged with stealing from the city, is asking a federal judge for permission to travel to Chicago for work. 

Miranda Brakley, who is also accused of lying in her bankruptcy case, says in her motion to travel that she was put on unpaid leave at her job at Omnicare in Griffith after she was charged in the case last month. 

Brakley has obtained a job at St. Bernard’s Hospital, the motion says, but her travel is restricted to the Northern District of Indiana as part of her bond. She is asking that she be allowed to travel to Chicago for her job. 

Brakley, a former court clerk for the city, is accused of stealing at least $5,000 from the city and then hiding $7,000 in income from her bankruptcy case. She has pleaded not guilty in the case. 

Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist , are also charged in the case with being an accessory after the fact and with money structuring. 

They are also charged in a second case with stealing money the mayor ’s election campaign and the city’s food pantry to pay for gambling trips. Both have also pleaded not guilty in the case. 












Indiana food bank suspends contract after charges
Associated Press State Wire: Indiana (IN) 
Saturday, April 19, 2014 
Author: The Times

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) — A northwestern Indiana food bank has suspended its contract with another food bank following its director's indictment on federal charges. 

An 11-count indictment alleges that Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist , improperly used money from the city's food pantry and his re-election campaign at local casinos. 

Deborah Soderquist is director of the Greater Hammond-Lake Station food pantry. 

The Times of Munster reports (http://bit.ly/1hcDGbE ) that the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana suspended its contract with the Lake Station food pantry following the Soderquists' indictments. 

Defense attorney Scott King says the couple "never touched a penny" of money from the city's food pantry fund, as the government alleges. 

The Soderquists are accused of cashing a $300 check intended for the food pantry before going to a Michigan casino. 












Shackles, high-profile raids highlight visual assault on region public corruption
April 19, 2014 10:30 pm 
Marc Chase
Times Staff Writer Bill Dolan contributed to this report.
NWI Times





HAMMOND | The clanking of shackles around wrists and ankles of elected officials charged with public corruption sends a sensory message, whether intended by law enforcement or not.

A message also comes across with the massive billboard-sized FBI logo on the sides of an evidence truck parked outside a local government building being raided.

At least one region defense attorney contends -- and some federal agents agree -- authorities here are sending a more visual, public message these days in a crack-down on alleged public corruption and other offenses.

Criminal defense attorney Scott King took note last year when his client, former Lake County Surveyor George Van Til, was led into Hammond federal court -- shackled hand and foot -- for his initial appearance on public corruption charges.

At the time, King said it was the first time he could remember seeing a client accused of nonviolent offenses marched into court in chains.

But it wouldn't be the last.

King also is representing Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and the mayor's wife on charges of stealing from campaign and city food pantry funds, among other accusations. On Thursday, the U.S. Marshals Service led Soderquist, his wife and stepdaughter, who also face charges, into Hammond federal court with the defendants clad in wrist and ankle chains.

King said he vehemently disagrees with the practice of shackling defendants charged with nonviolent crimes before they've been convicted of doing anything wrong.

He said he went on record with the complaint last year, sending a formal letter of protest to Northern District of Indiana U.S. Chief Judge Philip Simon.

Simon was unavailable for comment Friday.

The U.S. Marshals Service, the agency providing federal courtroom security, would not comment on any security measures or decisions, agency spokeswoman Pamela Mozdzierz said.

But to King, the shackling practice is a visual splash that presumes guilt of nonviolent offenders before they've been tried or convicted.

"Historically, in cases of people accused of nonviolent offenses, you didn't see this practice," King said.

"It's a visual act that I don't think is justified by any real security threat. They're bringing people into the courtroom in chains at a stage where they're presumed innocent."

In the case of Van Til, he ultimately pleaded guilty to charges of using county government resources to further his campaign and then directing the destruction of evidence to cover it up.

But Van Til, who is free on bond awaiting sentencing in his case, had not yet been convicted in May 2013 when he entered a federal courtroom with shackled wrists and ankles that also were connected to a chain around his waist.

King acknowledged that since Van Til's initial appearance, he is seeing more use of shackles for all defendants during initial appearances on criminal charges in Hammond federal court.

Though the U.S. Marshals Service declined to comment on the practice of shackling inmates, another federal agency's office admits a concerted effort to become more publicly visible in some of its operations.

Last month, the 600 block of Connecticut Street in Gary was closed down, and a large white truck with a prominent FBI logo was parked outside the Calumet Township trustee's office.

FBI and IRS had closed down the office and were seen carrying boxes and at least one computer out of the trustee's facility while serving a federal search warrant.

Throughout the morning, and in spite of an intermittent cold rain, a few people living in the nearby neighborhood came out to gawk at the truck and snap its picture in front of Trustee Mary Elgin's place of business.

Though no charges or reason behind the raid have yet been made public, the FBI made no secret it was there.

And according to a local FBI supervisory agent, that's partly by design.

"We are going to be visible and active, because part of our success is our visibility in the community -- like when our personnel are actively engaged in investigations, collecting evidence and serving subpoenas," said Bob Ramsey, supervisory agent for the FBI's Merrillville office.

"It's a good indication we are out there working hard and protecting the public's interests. "There haven't been any directives specifically from Indianapolis. Just our mindset up here is that there is work to do, and we are going to be aggressive."

Ramsey acknowledged crime deterrence is one of several reasons for the agency's high-profile look.













EDITORIAL: Three lessons from corruption charges
April 18, 2014 12:00 am
NWI Times
By Doug Ross
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/opinion/editorial/editorial-three-lessons-from-corruption-charges/article_c55bd283-1064-5d8d-bdb4-fb954bd79f1d.html

Yet another elected official in Northwest Indiana walked into the federal courthouse in Hammond wearing shackles Thursday. It is, sadly, a familiar story.

Dozens upon dozens of people connected with local government in Northwest Indiana have walked that same sidewalk.

This time, it was Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist, along with his wife, Deborah, and his stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley. The Soderquists were indicted Wednesday on charges of improperly using money from his election campaign and from the city's food pantry. Brakley, a previous city employee, is accused of taking at least $5,000 in bond money from the city court. The Soderquists are also charged with knowing about that $5,000 and helping Brakley avoid apprehension.

It is up to the judge to determine whether they are guilty. All three entered not guilty pleas.

But it's up to the Lake Station City Council and others in Northwest Indiana to learn from this situation.

First, there should be a wave of anti-nepotism policies adopted across the entire region. 

Deborah Soderquist is her husband's administrative assistant. She belongs by her husband's side throughout their marriage, but not in the mayor's office.

Local government should not be a family business. There should be no instance in which an employee reports directly to a member of the immediate family. It is also worth looking at whether family members even belong in the same unit of government -- and if so, under what circumstances.

There should be checks and balances in government, and banning nepotism is one of those necessary steps.

Joining the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission is a step in the right direction.

Second, the Lake Station City Council needs to take immediate action to protect the city's finances. This is a city, remember, that had the State Board of Accounts wondering about its ability to remain a viable entity.

Third, the mayor's federal indictment has not only further eroded public trust in local government but also now will raise skepticism about any decision made in Lake Station while he remains in office.

Soderquist should now resign to restore trust in the mayor's office and focus on the legal challenges facing him and his family.












Lake Station food pantry contract suspended after indictment
April 18, 2014 7:00 pm
Susan Erler
NWI Times
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/lake-station/lake-station-food-pantry-contract-suspended-after-indictment/article_49e8d734-da51-5172-940e-a05f0f8a252d.html

GARY | The Food Bank of Northwest Indiana has suspended its contract with the Greater Hammond - Lake Station food pantry in the wake of the federal indictment of Deborah Soderquist, the pantry director, a spokeswoman said.

Food already supplied to the Lake Station pantry will be redistributed to the Lake Station community through a mobile pantry, Food Bank spokeswoman Megan Sikes said.

An 11-count indictment filed Wednesday alleges Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquest and Deborah Soderquist, his wife, improperly used money from the city's food pantry and his re-election campaign at local casinos.

The couple are accused of cashing a $300 check from the city intended for the food pantry, according to the indictment. About two hours after the check was cashed July 13, 2011, both were gambling at Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich., authorities said.

An ATM withdrawal from the food pantry was made July 16, 2011, but the indictment does not state how much was taken.

Defense attorney Scott King has said the Soderquists "never touched a penny" of money from the city's food pantry fund, as the government alleges. King said he believes federal prosecutors "got it wrong" on charges against his clients.

The Lake Station pantry is one of almost 100 community-based programs, pantries and soup kitchens in Lake and Porter counties to be supplied food by the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, in Gary, Sikes said.

No money was taken from the Food Bank, Sikes said. 

The Food Bank was required by law to pick up Emergency Food Assistance Program commodities that had been supplied to the pantry when the contract was suspended, Sikes said. The food will be redistributed to the community through a mobile pantry.

"Our commitment to Lake Station and all the communities we serve has not changed," Food Bank board President Kevin DeVries said. "We know that the more than 104,000 food-insecure people we serve need our resources of food."

The Times Care and Share Food Drive planned May 1 to May 30 by the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana will dedicate 200 of an expected 1,000 boxes of donated food to Lake Station residents, Sikes said.












Lake Station mayor , wife plead not guilty to public corruption 
Post-Tribune (IN) 
Friday, April 18, 2014 

HAMMOND — Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife proclaimed their innocence in federal court Thursday morning, pleading not guilty in two separate criminal cases, including one claiming they illegally used money from the Lake Station Food Pantry and the mayor ’s campaign fund to pay for numerous gambling trips. 

The mayor ’s stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley, 33, also pleaded not guilty to stealing money from the city and then not reporting it as income when she filed for bankruptcy in August 2012. 

All three were released on a $20,000 bond. 

As part of their bond, the Soderquists agreed to give up a gun they legally own, and Brakley agreed to give up her U.S. passport. 

Prosecutors also agreed that Soderquist could travel for business outside of Northern Indiana as long as he alerted his probation officer to any trips. King said Soderquist has a planned trip to Washington, D.C., coming up in May. 

All three surrendered to law enforcement Thursday morning at the U.S. District Court in Hammond and then entered Magistrate John Martin’s courtroom in handcuffs. 

Soderquist , wearing a suit and tie, spoke little during the hearing other than to answer yes and no questions from Martin about his understanding of the case and his rights. 

“Not guilty,” he answered when asked by Martin as to how he plead to all 13 counts. 

Soderquist did not comment on the case after the hearing. Scott King, the Soderquists’ attorney, said his clients are innocent in both cases. 

“Our analysis of what they’re basing this on is they’re wrong,” he said. 

The mayor and his wife, Deborah, 55, who works for the city as the mayor ’s assistant, were charged in two federal indictments Wednesday evening. The first one claimed that from 2010 to 2012, the couple improperly took money that had either been donated to the mayor ’s campaign fund or given to the food pantry, which Deborah Soderquist oversees, on gambling trips to the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich. 

That case charges them with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing false on tax returns, in connection with not reporting the money on their federal income tax returns. 

He said that money paid to the couple from the campaign fund was reimbursement for money they had spent on behalf of the campaign and because the money was a reimbursement, it is not considered new income that has to be reported on tax returns. 

The indictment claimed that the Soderquists failed to report the money paid from their campaign to them. King said that campaign finance reports might have been improperly filled out but that it was not illegal. 

He denied that the couple took money from the food pantry for their own use, saying that all money can be accounted for. 

“Categorically, we are denying any impropriety,” King said. 

He added that numbers cited in the indictment for the Soderquists’ gambling losses — a total of $104,000 over the three-year period — are deceiving because it factors in all the losses incurred, even if those losses came after winning money. He argued the actual loss was much less. 

He also dismissed the statement in the indictment that said the couple traveled to the Four Winds Casino within three hours of taking $300 from the food pantry’s account. 

“Quite candidly, so what?” King said. “What does that prove?” 

The second indictment charges Brakley, who worked as a court clerk for the city until Judge Chris Anderson fired her in June 2012, with stealing at least $5,000 from the city from 2011 to June 2012. 

The Soderquists are charged with being an accessory after the fact by helping her avoid prosecution in December 2012 and with money structuring that same month. The indictment says someone in Kentucky gave them $15,000, which the couple instructed be written in three separate checks, which they then deposited at Chase Banks in Kentucky, Munster and Merrillville. 

An Indiana State Board of Accounts audit found that more than $16,000 in bond money was missing from the city court’s account and noted that Brakley was the main employee who oversaw the money. She returned almost all of the money in December 2012, saying she had accidentally taken it when she was clearing out her office and that the money had sat untouched with the rest of her belongings in her vehicle until she discovered it that month. 

Thomas Vanes, who is representing Brakely, said he has been working on the case for just two days and had no comment. 

King said the Soderquists were just trying to help their daughter and that the money came as a loan from Deborah Soderquist ’s uncle. 

If convicted, the Soderquists face a maximum of 20 years in prison on the wire fraud counts, five years on both the accessory-after-the-fact and money structuring counts and three years on the false tax returns counts. Brakley would face a maximum of 10 years on the theft count and five years on the bankruptcy count. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Kolar said that the government expects the case dealing with campaign and food pantry money to take about two and a half to three weeks if it goes to trial. The case involving Brakley is expected to last about a week and a half. 

A date for the trials was not set at the arraignment hearing. 

King said that Keith Soderquist , a Democrat, plans to continue serving the city as mayor and said Soderquist had actually improved the food pantry to better serve the city. 

“He’s been a very effective mayor ,” King said. 

Hobart Mayor Brian Snedecor said Thursday he didn’t have the opportunity to work very closely with Soderquist even though the two cities are neighbors. 

“When I had the opportunity to work with him, he always presented himself well,” Snedecor said. “But I’m disappointed; your heart goes out to that community.” 












Lake Station Council grilled about mayor ’s charges 
Post-Tribune (IN)
Friday, April 18, 2014
Author: Michael Gonzalez ; Post-Tribune correspondent

LAKE STATION — Residents and a small army of local and Chicago media packed Thursday’s city council meeting, one day after Mayor Keith Soderquist , his wife and her daughter were indicted by a federal grand jury. 

Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, face various charges for misusing campaign funds and city food pantry money for gambling and other personal uses, not filing federal income tax returns for three years and conspiring to cover up Miranda Brakley’s theft of bond money from the city court, according to two separate indictments. 

Soderquist did not attend the council meeting, but the council broke from its normal routine, amending the agenda to allow public comment. The council usually opens the floor to comments only at the first meeting of the month. 

The speakers voiced frustration, confusion and, for some, an unwillingness to believe that council members were blindsided by the charges. 

After Councilman Todd Rogers admonished the crowd to “keep it civil,” several councilmen said they were saddened by the news but did not know about the allegations prior to Wednesday’s announcement by the U.S. attorney’s office in Hammond. 

“We have questions also,” Councilman At-Large Garry Szostek said. “We’d like to get them answered.” 

Councilman John McDaniel, a police lieutenant and strong Soderquist supporter, said after the meeting that he was shocked by the indictments but “figured something would happen” in light of reports in recent months that the mayor was under federal investigation. 

Kim Frizzell, city court clerk and a vocal critic of Soderquist and most of the council, said the council members should not have been surprised by the indictments because she has sent them dozens of emails, warning of improprieties in the mayor ’s office for a year. 

Frizzell, who formerly worked in the police department, said she has been collecting for several years documents demonstrating problems with the court money that Brakley is accused of stealing. 

“This (indictment) probably would not have happened this way if (the council) had acted,” Frizzell said “Their obligation to the people was to ask questions.” 

One resident, Jim Esteph, simply asked, “What are you guys going to do to restore the public trust?” 

“Nobody can tell me you didn’t know there was something wrong going on in this city,” said Vic Vargas, who worked for the city’s emergency medical services for 45 years before losing his job when the city privatized ambulance service last month. “If you didn’t know, you’re like ostriches with your heads in the sand.” 

Amelia Lara, a resident who works for the Portage Township food pantry, offered to help in “restoring faith in the (city) food pantry,” but after the meeting she blasted Soderquist . 

“( Soderquist ’s) guilty in the eyes of the people whose food he took out of their mouths,” Lara said. “He stole money from people, from children, who were hungry.” 

Outside of the council chambers, some residents cautioned to let the legal system run its course. 

“I thought maybe ( Soderquist ) would come and explain why he ripped us off,” Ashley Latta said. “If he would’ve showed up tonight to prove he’s not guilty, I would’ve believed him.” 












Lake Station mayor, wife, stepdaughter plead not guilty to corruption charges
April 17, 2014 10:54 am  
John Luke, The Times






HAMMOND | Lake Station's mayor, his wife and his stepdaughter entered a Hammond federal courtroom in shackles Thursday, all three pleading not guilty to a total of 15 criminal charges spanning two public corruption indictments.

Defense attorney Scott King, who is representing Mayor Keith Soderquist, 44, and the mayor's wife, Deborah Soderquist, 55, said he believes federal prosecutors "got it wrong" on charges alleging his clients stole food pantry and campaign funds, gambled away some of the proceeds and failed to report the allegedly stolen cash as income on their tax returns.

Speaking after a plea hearing, King said the Soderquists reimbursed themselves for "personal expenses" from the mayor's campaign fund. He said they "never touched a penny" of money from the city's food pantry fund, as the government also alleges.

And he denies they committed any criminal acts in assisting the mayor's stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley, 33, who is charged along with the Soderquists in a separate indictment.

King said Soderquist, a Democrat first elected to the mayor's office in 2008, would continue on as Lake Station mayor and fight the charges.

"He's got a city to run, and he's been real effective at it," King said.

"The mayor and Mrs. Soderquist have completely cooperated with this ongoing investigation even before retaining counsel," King said in a news conference outside the Hammond Federal Courthouse.

"I urge a lot of restraint when considering these charges."

As part of the terms of their release on bond Thursday, the Soderquists will not be allowed to travel outside the U.S. District of Northern Indiana without communicating whereabouts to federal probation officers. A pistol the Soderquists own also will have to be turned over to Lake Station police, pending trial.

Federal prosecutors said Thursday they plan to handle the charges in two separate trials, one that could last between two and three weeks and another estimated to last two weeks. No trial dates had been set as of Thursday.

Following Thursday's plea hearing, all three defendants walked in a tight grouping from the courthouse without answering questions about the federal allegations. They each were released on a $20,000 unsecured bond.

In one indictment, Keith and Deborah Soderquist each face charges of pocketing money from the city's food pantry and the mayor's re-election campaign, in part for gambling at Indiana and Michigan casinos.

A second federal indictment filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court alleges the couple knew the mayor's stepdaughter, Brakley, stole at least $5,000 from the Lake Station City Court and helped her conceal the theft.

Defense attorney Thomas Vanes, who is representing Brakley in the criminal case, declined any specific comment Thursday, noting he only had been retained within the past 48 hours.

"All I would offer on the matter is that nothing is as it seems in Lake Station," Vanes said.

The indictments follow the fall 2013 execution of search warrants by federal agents at Lake Station City Hall. The city's clerk-treasurer previously said she had received 10 subpoenas asking for records and information about Brakley's employment with the city.

Deborah Soderquist works for the city as the mayor's administrative assistant. She also serves as treasurer of her husband's election campaign committee. Brakley previously worked as a city employee. 

One indictment alleges between spring 2010 and December 2012, the Soderquists were improperly pocketing funds at the same time they lost $104,000 at region casinos.

The couple face charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of false tax filings. The wire fraud charges each carries penalties of up to 20 years in prison on conviction and fines of up to $250,000.

In a three-year span, the couple took $18,500 from the election campaign's account, according to the indictment.

The couple also are accused of cashing a $300 check from the city that was intended for the Lake Station Food Pantry, according to the indictment. About two hours after the check was cashed July 13, 2011, both were gambling at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich., authorities said.

The indictment alleges that in 2010, $3,500 was withdrawn during 12 different days from Soderquist's election campaign committee account. The money was withdrawn within one day from when the couple traveled to the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo.

In 2011, the couple withdrew on 30 different days more than $10,000 from the campaign account, according to the indictment. Again, the couple traveled to the Four Winds Casino after the money was taken, the indictment states.

The next year, more than $5,000 was withdrawn from the campaign account, according to the indictment, and the couple traveled to casinos after the withdrawals were made. 

From 2010 to 2012, the couple is accused of filing false or misleading Indiana Elections Commission forms and filing false tax returns.

In a separate indictment, Brakley is accused from 2011 to 2012 of taking at least $5,000 in bond money from the Lake Station City Court. She also is accused of making a false bankruptcy declaration by failing to disclose more than $7,000 in payments from the city of Lake Station. 

The Soderquists are charged in the second indictment with being an accessory after the fact by helping prevent Brakley's apprehension. 

The Soderquists also are charged in the second indictment with structuring financial transactions to avoid federal scrutiny. According to the indictment, in December 2012 the couple drove to Kentucky to obtain $15,000 from an unidentified person.

The couple told the unidentified person to write three checks with three different dates that totaled less than $10,000, according to the indictment. Banks are required to file a report involving transactions of more than $10,000. 

The checks later were cashed in Bowling Green, Ky., Munster and Merrillville, the indictment states.

King represented Brakley after a State Board of Accounts audit concluded she owed the city $37,182 in unapproved leave payments. King said last year Brakley didn't owe the money, had done nothing wrong and was wrongfully terminated as a city employee.

On her last day as a city employee, $15,880 in missing city bond collections was found in Brakley's car. King previously said that money was returned to the city and was among boxes city employees moved to Brakley's car. King is continuing to represent Brakley in a civil lawsuit she has filed against the Lake Station City Court, alleging wrongful termination. However, attorney Vanes will represent Brakley in the federal criminal case.












Lake Station residents demand answers after mayor indicted
April 17, 2014 9:30 pm 
Deborah Laverty Times Correspondent





LAKE STATION | Residents who stormed the City Council meeting room Thursday expressed anger and disappointment and demanded answers in light of the multiple criminal charges filed against Mayor Keith Soderquist, his wife and stepdaughter.

"What will you do to restore the public trust?" one resident asked.

Soderquist did not attend the meeting, which was lead by City Council President Todd Rogers.

"The mayor will not be here tonight," Rogers said.

Rogers, prior to the meeting, declined to comment about the mayor's situation or the city's future leadership status.

"It's up to his lawyers to comment," Rogers said.

The council agreed to allow limited comments from the public with about half a dozen residents going up to the microphone.

Resident Joseph Castellanos drew a round of applause when he told council members he found it hard to believe they didn't know what was going on in the city since most of the 12,000 Lake Station residents did.

"Why don't some of you resign along with the mayor? I'll serve, and I won't take any pay," Castellanos said.

Soderquist, his wife, Deborah, and stepdaughter Miranda Brakley pleaded not guilty Thursday to a total of 15 criminal charges in Hammond federal court.

Defense attorney Scott King, who is representing Soderquist and the mayor's wife, said he believes federal prosecutors "got it wrong" on charges alleging his clients stole food pantry and campaign funds, gambled away some of the proceeds and failed to report the allegedly stolen cash as income on their tax returns.

City Court Clerk Kim Frizzell also took the council to task for not asking more questions, especially in light of City Court money that was found missing and later was turned in by Brakley, a fired city court employee. The money was found in Brakley's car.

"I'd like to know what each of you feel. You said you had no idea this was going on, but none of you asked about the money," Frizzell said.

Councilman Gary Szostek told residents they probably know as much as council members do about what is going on.

"I had no idea. It came as a shock. We have no control over the mayor's campaign fund. ... You all have questions and hopefully your questions will be answered, but not by us," Szostek said.

Resident Amelia Lara said she was especially sickened to hear the mayor was accused of stealing food pantry funds. She serves as a food pantry director in Portage.

"This is an administration that stole from hungry people. That crushes me," Lara said.

Lara said she would be willing to work with the community to restore the food pantry.

"It needs to be run by a board and the community and not by city officials," Lara said.

Councilman Rick Long, at the end of the meeting, asked the community to work together and to go forward.

"It's a sad day in the city, and I'm very disappointed. We still have a city to run, and we need to work together to get it done," Long said. "Hopefully we can get through this quickly and move forward."











Indiana mayor pleads not guilty to fraud charges 
Associated Press State Wire: Indiana (IN)
Thursday, April 17, 2014

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) — A northwestern Indiana mayor pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges that he and his wife took more than $18,000 from his campaign account at the same time they had big casino gambling losses. 

Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist , his wife Deborah Soderquist , and stepdaughter entered the pleas during a federal court hearing a day after prosecutors announced grand jury indictments charging them with wire fraud and filing false tax returns. 

Defense attorney Scott King said Soderquist might be responsible for sloppy reporting of campaign finances, but that he and his wife did nothing illegal. 

"Every penny they ever received from the campaign fund was reimbursement for expenses they had personally incurred on behalf of the campaign. Therefore, there is no act of fraud," King told reporters after Thursday's court hearing. 

The indictment charges the couple made numerous withdrawals between spring 2010 and late 2012 at the same time that they lost $104,000 at area casinos. 

Another charge is that they cashed a $300 check from the city that was intended for the Lake Station Food Pantry. About two hours after the check was cashed in July 2011, both were gambling at a New Buffalo, Mich., casino, according to the indictment. 

King, a former Gary mayor , said his client did nothing wrong, and criticized prosecutors for trying to tie bank transactions with a later trip to a casino. Keith Soderquist will continue serving as mayor while he contests the charges, King said. 

"Quite candidly, so what? What is that proving?" King said. 

Soderquist , a Democrat, was first elected mayor of the 13,000-person city just east of Gary in 2008 and was re-elected in 2012. Deborah Soderquist is her husband's mayoral administrative assistant and has been treasurer of his campaign committee. 

They are also charged with helping the mayor 's stepdaughter hide the theft of at least $5,000 from the Lake Station City Court. 

The couple surrendered to federal authorities Thursday, and appeared in handcuffs in court before being released on $40,000 bonds. 










NW Indiana mayor pleads not guilty to charges 
Associated Press State Wire: Indiana (IN) 
Thursday, April 17, 2014 

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) — A northwestern Indiana mayor , his wife and stepdaughter have pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges. 

Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and the others entered the pleas during a federal court hearing Thursday in Hammond, a day after prosecutors announced the grand jury indictment against them. 

Defense attorney Scott King says the Soderquists have been cooperating with federal agents for more than a year and that they disagree with investigators' interpretation of events. 

The indictment charges the couple made withdrawals totaling at least $18,500 from the mayor 's campaign account before casino trips. Another charge is that they took $300 from a city food pantry bank account. 

The couple also is charged with helping the mayor 's stepdaughter hide the theft of at least $5,000 from the city just east of Gary. 










Lake Station mayor , wife face charges of public corruption 
Post-Tribune (IN)
Contributing: Michael Gonzalez 
Thursday, April 17, 2014 

Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife used money meant to feed the needy to feed their gambling habit, according to federal prosecutors. 

The U.S. attorney’s office in Hammond announced Wednesday evening two separate indictments against Soderquist , 44, and Deborah Soderquist , 55, and one of the cases accuses his stepdaughter, a former Lake Station employee, of stealing bond money posted at city court and committing bankruptcy fraud. 

Scott King, who is representing the Soderquists, said his clients have been cooperating with federal agents for more than a year. 

“We really have a very fundamental disagreement about their interpretation and our interpretation,” King said. 

The first indictment charges the Soderquists with taking money from the Lake Station Food Pantry, which receives money from city and state tax dollars and local donations, and the mayor ’s campaign fund for their personal use, including dozens of trips to Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich., from 2010 to 2012. 

The indictment claims that on 67 days over the three-year period, the couple withdrew money — at least $18,500 — from the bank account of the Committee to Elect Keith Soderquist and traveled to the casino each time. 

On at least one occasion, the couple withdrew $300 from the food pantry’s bank account and were at the casino within three hours, according to the indictment. It says they are also accused of making 14 wire transfers from the two funds for personal use over the same time period. 

The indictment says they lost $45,000 to gambling in 2010, $32,000 in 2011 and $27,000 in 2012. 

The Soderquists hid their activity by not reporting the campaign fund withdrawals on election forms they must file, and Mayor Soderquist had all bank statements for the pantry, which his wife oversaw, sent directly to his office. Deborah Soderquist worked as the mayor ’s administrative assistant. 

The indictment does not say exactly how much money was taken from the pantry or campaign fund. It charges the Soderquists each with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, six counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing false tax returns for not reporting the diverted money as income on federal returns for 2010, 2011 and 2012. 

The second indictment says Miranda Brakley, 33, a former city court clerk, stole at least $5,000 in bond money from city court from August 2011 to July 2012 and also hid $7,000 in income she received from the city from her bankruptcy case, which she filed in August 2012. The Soderquists are also charged with helping her hide the thefts. 

Brakley’s court job became a legal issue between the city judge and the mayor after the judge fired her in June 2012. Soderquist took control of all the court clerks two weeks later and rehired Brakley, but the judge sued the mayor and city council, regaining control over the clerks. Brakley was then fired again. 

An Indiana State Board of Accounts audit released in January 2013 disclosed that $16,464 in bond money paid by defendants was missing from the Whiting court’s account, money that was mostly overseen by Brakley. She turned over $15,800 to the city in December 2012, claiming that she had accidentally taken the money while cleaning out her desk and had left the box with the money sitting untouched in her vehicle the whole time. 

The second indictment also charges the Soderquists with violating federal banking law. It says they drove to Kentucky in December 2012, where a person, not identified in the indictment, gave them $15,000. 

The couple told the person to write three checks, each totalling less than $10,000 and to write different dates on them, the indictment says, and the mayor and his wife one of the checks at a Chase Bank in Bowling Green, Ky., and the other two at Chase Banks in Munster and Merrillville. Federal law requires banks to report any activity greater than $10,000. 

King said the Soderquists had not been arrested as of Wednesday evening, but he expected they would make their initial appearance at the U.S. District Court in Hammond on Thursday. 

Several Lake Station council members said Wednesday that they were surprised by the indictments. 

Councilman Rick Long said that although he knew that federal authorities had been investigating the mayor , he thought any case must have been dropped when he hadn’t heard anything in some time. 

“Sometimes we get this false impression that no news is good news,” Long said. “He had a lot of potential; you don’t want to see him get in trouble.” 

Long said Soderquist has been absent from several recent political events in the city and was not in the office Tuesday, although Long said he was told that his wife was sick and he was with her. 

He said Soderquist had worked to find the food pantry its own space several years ago, adding that he thought the Soderquists “were doing a great job with the food pantry.” 

Councilman At-Large Todd Lara said he and the Soderquists have been friends for years, and he was shocked at the news. 

“I’m definitely surprised. I didn’t see this coming,” Lara said. “I’m actually devastated because no matter what happens, even if (the mayor ) is found not guilty, it tarnishes everything we’ve tried and worked so hard to get away from as far as the city’s image before.











Indiana mayor, wife indicted for allegedly using public money for gambling
Evening News and Tribune (Jeffersonville-New Albany, IN) 
Thursday, April 17, 2014 
Author: Teresa Auch Schultz, (Merrillville) Post-Tribune

Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife used money meant to feed the needy to feed their gambling habit, according to federal prosecutors. 

The U.S. attorney’s office in Hammond announced Wednesday evening two separate indictments against Soderquist , 44, and Deborah Soderquist , 55, and one of the cases accuses his stepdaughter, a former Lake Station employee, of stealing bond money posted at city court and committing bankruptcy fraud. 

Scott King, who is representing the Soderquists, said his clients have been cooperating with federal agents for more than a year. 

“We really have a very fundamental disagreement about their interpretation and our interpretation,” King said. 

The first indictment charges the Soderquists with taking money from the Lake Station Food Pantry, which receives money from city and state tax dollars and local donations, and the mayor’s campaign fund for their personal use, including dozens of trips to Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich., from 2010 to 2012. 

The indictment claims that on 67 days over the three-year period, the couple withdrew money — at least $18,500 — from the bank account of the Committee to Elect Keith Soderquist and traveled to the casino each time. 

On at least one occasion, the couple withdrew $300 from the food pantry’s bank account and were at the casino within three hours, according to the indictment. It says they are also accused of making 14 wire transfers from the two funds for personal use over the same time period. 

The indictment says they lost $45,000 to gambling in 2010, $32,000 in 2011 and $27,000 in 2012. 

The Soderquists hid their activity by not reporting the campaign fund withdrawals on election forms they must file, and Mayor Soderquist had all bank statements for the pantry, which his wife oversaw, sent directly to his office. Deborah Soderquist worked as the mayor’s administrative assistant. 

The indictment does not say exactly how much money was taken from the pantry or campaign fund. It charges the Soderquists each with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, six counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing false tax returns for not reporting the diverted money as income on federal returns for 2010, 2011 and 2012. 

The second indictment says Miranda Brakley, 33, a former city court clerk, stole at least $5,000 in bond money from city court from August 2011 to July 2012 and also hid $7,000 in income she received from the city from her bankruptcy case, which she filed in August 2012. The Soderquists are also charged with helping her hide the thefts. 

Brakley’s court job became a legal issue between the city judge and the mayor after the judge fired her in June 2012. Soderquist took control of all the court clerks two weeks later and rehired Brakley, but the judge sued the mayor and city council, regaining control over the clerks. Brakley was then fired again. 

An Indiana State Board of Accounts audit released in January 2013 disclosed that $16,464 in bond money paid by defendants was missing from the court’s account, money that was mostly overseen by Brakley. She turned over $15,800 to the city in December 2012, claiming that she had accidentally taken the money while cleaning out her desk and had left the box with the money sitting untouched in her vehicle the whole time. 

The second indictment also charges the Soderquists with violating federal banking law. It says they drove to Kentucky in December 2012, where a person, not identified in the indictment, gave them $15,000. 

The couple told the person to write three checks, each totalling less than $10,000 and to write different dates on them, the indictment says, and the mayor and his wife cashed one of the checks at a Chase Bank in Bowling Green, Ky., and the other two at Chase Banks in Munster and Merrillville. Federal law requires banks to report any activity greater than $10,000. 

King said the Soderquists had not been arrested as of Wednesday evening, but he expected they would make their initial appearance at the U.S. District Court in Hammond on Thursday. 

Several Lake Station council members said Wednesday that they were surprised by the indictments. 

Councilman Rick Long said that although he knew that federal authorities had been investigating the mayor, he thought any case must have been dropped when he hadn’t heard anything in some time. 

“Sometimes we get this false impression that no news is good news,” Long said. “He had a lot of potential; you don’t want to see him get in trouble.” 

Long said Soderquist has been absent from several recent political events in the city and was not in the office Tuesday, although Long said he was told that his wife was sick and he was with her. 

He said Soderquist had worked to find the food pantry its own space several years ago, adding that he thought the Soderquists “were doing a great job with the food pantry.” 

Councilman At-Large Todd Lara said he and the Soderquists have been friends for years, and he was shocked at the news. 

“I’m definitely surprised. I didn’t see this coming,” Lara said. “I’m actually devastated because no matter what happens, even if [the mayor] is found not guilty, it tarnishes everything we’ve tried and worked so hard to get away from as far as the city’s image before.” 










Feds: Lake Station mayor gambled away campaign, food pantry cash
April 16, 2014 9:00 pm 
NWI Times
Elvia Malagon








LAKE STATION | An 11-count federal indictment filed Wednesday alleges Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, improperly used money from the city's food pantry and his re-election campaign at local casinos. 

A second federal indictment filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court alleges the couple knew the mayor's stepdaughter, Miranda Brakley, 33, pocketed at least $5,000 from the Lake Station City Court and helped her prevent apprehension.

Wednesday's indictments come after the fall 2013 execution of search warrants at Lake Station City Hall. The city's clerk-treasurer previously said she had received 10 subpoenas asking for records and information about Brakley's employment with the city.

Deborah Soderquist works for the city as the mayor's administrative assistant. She is also the treasurer of her husband's election campaign committee. Brakley previously worked as a city employee. 

Attorney Scott King, who is representing Soderquists, said both will enter a not guilty plea in federal court Thursday.

"They have been cooperating for more than a year," King said late Wednesday. "We will be there (Thursday)." 

One indictment alleges between spring 2010 and December 2012 Keith Soderquist, 44, and Deborah Soderquist, 55, were improperly pocketing funds at the same time that they lost $104,000 at local casinos.

The couple face charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of false filing.

In a three-year span the couple took $18,500 from the election campaign's account, according to the indictment.

The couple also are accused of cashing a $300 check from the city that was intended for the Lake Station Food Pantry, according to the indictment. About two hours after the check was cashed July 13, 2011, both were gambling at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich, authorities said.

An ATM withdrawal from the food pantry was made July 16, 2011, but the indictment does not state how much was taken.

According to the indictment, in 2010 $3,500 was withdrawn during 12 different days from Soderquist's election campaign committee account. The money was withdrawn within one day from when the couple traveled to the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo.

In 2011, the couple withdrew on 30 different days more than $10,000 from the campaign account, according to the indictment. Again, the couple traveled to the Four Winds Casino after the money was taken, the indictment states.

The next year, more than $5,000 was withdrawn from the campaign account, according to the indictment. The couple traveled to casinos after the withdrawals were made. 

From 2010 to 2012, the couple are accused of filing false or misleading Indiana Elections Commission CFA-4 forms and filing false tax returns.

In a separate indictment, Brakley is accused from 2011 to 2012 of taking at least $5,000 in bond money from the Lake Station City Court. She also is accused of making a false bankruptcy declaration by failing to disclose payments from the city of Lake Station that totaled more than $7,000, according to the indictment. 

Deborah Soderquist and Keith Soderquist are charged in the second indictment with being an accessory after the fact by preventing Brakley's apprehension. 

The Soderquists also are charged in the second indictment with structuring of financial transactions. According to the indictment, in December 2012 the couple drove to Kentucky to get $15,000 from an unidentified person. The indictment does not explicitly state the origin of the $15,000. 

The couple told the unidentified person to write three checks with three different dates that totaled less than $10,000, according to the indictment. Banks are required to file a report involving transactions of more than $10,000. 

The checks later were cashed in Bowling Green, Ky., Munster and Merrillville, the indictment states.

Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Samuels said last year she had received 10 subpoenas asking for records or information about the city. A number of the subpoenas involved the employment of Miranda Brakley, a former city employee and the mayor's stepdaughter.

King represented Brakley after a State Board of Accounts audit concluded she owed the city $37,182 in unapproved leave payments.

King said last year Brakley didn't owe the money, had done nothing wrong and was wrongfully terminated as a city employee.

On her last day as a city employee, $15,880 in missing city bond collections was found in Brakley's car. King previously said that money was returned to the city and was among boxes city employees moved to Brakley's car.

Earlier Wednesday, King denied his client had been asked to turn himself in to federal authorities. 

King's past federal criminal court clientele have included convicted former East Chicago Mayor George Pabey, disgraced former Lake County Surveyor George Van Til and convicted former Calumet Township Trustee Dozier Allen, all of whom pleaded guilty to or were convicted of public corruption charges.

Keith Soderquist was first elected as Lake Station mayor in 2008 and was re-elected in 2012.

Times staff writers Bill Dolan and Marc Chase contributed to this report.










Grand jury indicts NW Ind. mayor , wife, ex-worker 
Associated Press State Wire: Indiana (IN) 
Wednesday, April 16, 2014 

LAKE STATION, Ind. (AP) — Prosecutors say a federal grand jury has indicted a northwestern Indiana mayor , his wife and a former city employee on corruption charges. 

The charges announced Wednesday allege Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, conspired to commit wire fraud by taking cash for gambling and other purposes from a campaign finance account and a city food pantry. Deborah Soderquist , while serving as an administrative assistant to her husband, assisted in the food pantry's operations. 

The grand jury also indicted former city employee Miranda Brakley for allegedly stealing funds from the city about 5 miles southeast of Gary and the Soderquists for allegedly helping her hide the theft. 

A telephone message seeking comment was left at the Soderquists' home. Brakley doesn't have a published telephone listing in the area. 










EDITORIAL: Lake County needs to join era of ethics
Doug Ross 
Times of Northwest Indiana Editorial Page Editor
4/16/2014 - 7:25:00 PM

Lake County government is now alone in declining to pay for ethics training for employees. That's shameful. Porter and LaPorte counties have already committed to joining the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission [http://www.sharedethics.com/index.html ].

At the commission's invitation, a majority of Lake County Council members signed a pledge presented to all Northwest Indiana candidates for municipal and county offices.

"If elected to the office I seek, I commit myself to being an advocate for ethical practices within my realm of responsibility," the 2014 candidate ethics action pledge says.

The pledge further commits the candidate to making formal training available to employees, adopting an ethics code and protecting whistleblowers.

That ought to be an easy pledge, especially after dozens of area public officials have been prosecuted on public corruption charges.

FBI raids in Porter County and Calumet Township offices add to the urgency to sign this pledge.

At least five of the Lake County Council members — Ted Bilski, D-Hobart; Dan Dernulc, R-Highland; David Hamm; D-Hammond; Jerome Prince, D-Gary; and Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point — have signed the pledge. Prince is seeking the county assessor position but sits on the council now.

Yet every time Shared Ethics Advisory Commission President Calvin Bellamy has asked the County Council to appropriate money for the commission to pay for training, he has come away empty-handed.

Lake County citizens and taxpayers should be furious.

How can public trust in county government — which is already at a low level — be rebuilt when the County Council refuses to pay a paltry sum for ethics training?

The Shared Ethics Advisory Commission has no paid staff and no office to maintain. All the dues go toward training materials.

The $5,000 entry fee and an even lower annual fee are a bargain in a county where there have been many ethical lapses — and not just the criminal ones that have led to high-profile prosecutions.

Officials note that Lake County offers in-house ethics training, provided by a consultant, but joining the ethics commission and fully participating would send a stronger signal of the commitment to ethical behavior in county government.

Hamm said he would like joining the commission to be considered by the council "And I'll carry the matter," he said.

Councilmen who signed that pledge should support Hamm on this. Lake County residents should demand it.












04/16/2014 - Mayor Keith Soderquist and Deborah Soderquist Federal Indictment 









Public Corruption Indictments Returned in Hammond Federal Court 
U.S. Attorney’s Office April 16, 2014
Northern District of Indiana (219) 937-5500
http://www.fbi.gov/indianapolis/press-releases/2014/public-corruption-indictments-returned-in-hammond-federal-court

HAMMOND, IN—United States Attorney David Capp announced today two indictments naming Keith Soderquist, the mayor of Lake Station.

The first indictment charges Soderquist, age 44, and his wife, Deborah Soderquist, age 55, who was employed as the administrative assistant to Mayor Soderquist.

The indictment alleges a conspiracy between Keith and Deborah Soderquist to commit wire fraud in connection with financial transactions involving the mayor’s campaign finance account and the Lake Station Food Pantry account. These accounts were allegedly utilized by the Soderquists to obtain cash for personal expenses, including gambling activities at casinos in Indiana and Michigan.

The indictment also charges both Keith and Deborah Soderquist with filing false tax returns for the years 2010, 2011, and 2012. The basis for the tax charges is their failure to disclose the money they took from the campaign and food pantry account that they converted to their own personal uses.

The second indictment names Keith Soderquist, Deborah Soderquist, and Miranda Brakley, age 33, a former employee of Lake Station. Brakley is charged in count one of the second indictment with theft of funds from Lake Station from August 1, 2011 through July 31, 2012. Brakley is also charged in count two with bankruptcy fraud for failing to disclose certain payments received from Lake Station on her bankruptcy schedules. Keith and Deborah Soderquist are charged in count three of the second indictment for being accessories after the fact. That count alleges that, after knowing that Brakley had committed the theft alleged in count one, they assisted Brakley in order to hinder and prevent Brakley’s apprehension, trial, and punishment.

The last count alleges that Keith and Deborah Soderquist structured a series of financial transactions in order to avoid the reporting requirements under federal law. The indictment alleges that in December 2012, the Soderquists obtained $15,000 from an individual. They instructed that individual to write three checks in amounts less than $10,000 (the reporting requirement under federal law) and to back date two of those checks. From December 8-12, 2012, those checks were cashed at different branches of JP Morgan Chase bank.

The investigation that led to the second indictment was initiated after a State Board of Accounts audit disclosed missing funds that had been posted as bond money with the Lake Station City Court. United States Attorney David Capp stated, “These indictments are part of this office’s ongoing public corruption investigation. 

Today’s indictments were the result of an extensive investigative effort by the FBI, IRS, and ISP. This investigative team will continue to investigate allegations of abuse of the public trust.”

The Soderquists and Brakley are expected to surrender to authorities at the Hammond federal courthouse Thursday morning. 

This case is a result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Indiana State Police. This case will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Joshua Kolar and Philip Benson.


The United States Attorney’s Office emphasized that an indictment is merely an allegation and that all persons charged are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.










Lake Station ready to flip its first house
Post-Tribune (IN)
Saturday, March 8, 2014

LAKE STATION — A nasty divorce left a waterlogged house for neighbors in this east side neighborhood. 

Several years and a major remodel later, the house will go on the market and give Mayor Keith Soderquist a chance to play George Bailey, the do-gooder hero of the classic movie “It’s A Wonderful Life.” 

Next month, the city will look to sell its first remodeled home after pouring $28,000 in big repairs into the once-shuttered house at 4800 26th St. The proceeds from that sale, expected to fetch a price in the mid $80,000 range, will go to more fixer-uppers the city owns. 

“You take a little bit more sense of pride when you own the home, because it’s yours,” said Soderquist , waving his arms around the new living room flooded with natural light. “It’s that aspect of waiting to buy your home. Wait for what? For when your kids grow up and are gone, and you have no memories of your own home?” 

Unlike larger cities in the area, which dole out millions of dollars in federal funds to fix up blocks of abandoned homes, Lake Station waited years to fix up a place it already owned. 

Proceeds from the sale will go to fixing up more abandoned homes the city owns throughout the city, Soderquist said. The next site will be on Lake Station’s west side, just off Clay St. 

Three or four more projects will follow, but the idea is to provide quality homes at affordable prices as a form of economic development, he said. 

The newly remodeled house, built in the 1950s, became an eyesore in an otherwise attractive east side neighborhood. A divorce turned nasty once an ousted ex-spouse turned on all of the water faucets and hoses in the home, flooding it while the homeowner was away. 

The house sat for about four years, with the bank holding the mortgage refusing to do anything with it, Soderquist explained. The bank deeded the property to Lake Station, meaning the city spent no money to obtain it. 

Using economic development money sitting in an unused fund, the city hired a carpenter and put city workers on the project. A practically new, mold-free house emerged 18 months later. 

New laminated flooring in the kitchen, living area and hallways are complemented by new thermal windows and decorative doors bought at steep discounts. Wooden decks greet visitors at the front and rear of the house; in the back, the deck is large enough to accommodate a grill and patio furniture. 

The expansive basement is framed for several rooms, with a masonry wall filled with decorative stone fragments at the foot of the stairs. 

“It’s an amazing job, and it’s really good to see the city doing something like this,” said Fifth District Councilman Rick Long at a recent City Council meeting. 

Lake Station remains on an administrative time-out with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, so it must rely on its own means, Soderquist said. 

“Maybe we’ll get to the point where maybe we’ll need to acquire a whole block and we’ll need millions of dollars from the (federal) government,” he said. “We’re nowhere near that. We’re taking one home and trying to turn it around. Moving it forward, we’ll see.” 
Caption: ABOVE: Upgrades to the house at 4800 26th St. include thermal windows, a decorative front door, new laminated flooring and ceiling fans. LEFT: Mayor Keith Soderquist examines a wall of decorative stone fragments in the basement. | Michael Gonzalez/For the Post-Tribune ABOVE: Upgrades to the house at 4800 26th St. include thermal windows, a decorative front door, new laminated flooring and ceiling fans. LEFT: Mayor Keith Soderquist examines a wall of decorative stone fragments in the basement. | Michael Gonzalez/For the Post-Tribune 











It's back to normal in Lake Station
Times, The (Munster, IN) 
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 

Nov. 19--LAKE STATION -- Business at Lake Station City Hall was back to normal on Monday, Mayor Keith Soderquist said. 

Federal agents left City Hall sometime Friday afternoon after executing a search warrant that morning. 

"I did not notice exactly what time they (federal agents) left the office," Soderquist said. 

The agents, including three from the Internal Revenue Service and one the Federal Bureau of Investigations, didn't discuss with city officials whether they would be returning, what they were seeking or why. 

"We complied with their request for information," Soderquist said. 

The agents on Friday also declined to discuss the intent of their search warrant with the media, referring all questions to media spokespersons from their departments. 

Kerry Hannigan, a public information officer of the IRS, said agents from her office were in Lake Station on "official business." 

"I can't comment on whether or not the agents will be returning to Lake Station," Hannigan said on Monday. 

FBI spokeswoman Wendy Osborne confirmed Monday the the FBI is conducting an investigative activity in Lake Station, the nature of which she wouldn't disclose. 

It's not the first time federal agents have been in Lake Station seeking information. 

Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Samuels confirmed earlier this fall agents had sought documents and information from her office. 










Federal agents serve warrant at NW Ind. city hall
Associated Press State Wire: Indiana (IN) 
Saturday, November 16, 2013 

LAKE STATION, Ind. (AP) — Several federal agents have served a search warrant at the city hall of the northwestern Indiana city of Lake Station. 

Three agents from the Internal Revenue Services and one from the FBI were among the agents who served the warrant Friday at the Lake Station City Hall. 

Mayor Keith Soderquist tells The Times of Munster (http://bit.ly/1ax1GGa ) city officials complied with agents' requests for documents and information they were seeking. 

IRS spokeswoman Kerry Hannigan says agents from her office were in Lake Station on "official business." She and other federal officials declined to comment further. 

A state audit of Lake Station's finances last year discovered that nearly $16,000 in city bond collections were missing. State Board of Accounts audit office supervisor Charles Pride says that audit also found financial errors. 










FBI agents take computers from Lake Station City Hall
Post-Tribune (IN) 
Saturday, November 16, 2013 

LAKE STATION — Federal Bureau of Investigation agents showed up at the office of Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist shortly before noon on Friday. 

An FBI van was parked in front of City Hall, and at least three agents were visible inside the office around noon. An office worker said no boxes of documents were taken from the office but the agents did interview the mayor . 

None of the FBI agents on the scene would comment. 

A caller to the Post-Tribune said FBI agents took computers out of the building, but an office worker who would not give her name disputed that, saying “not a thing” was removed. 

A city attorney said in October that federal investigators, over the summer, had subpoenaed documents from Lake Station’s Board of Works, over which Soderquist presides as president. 

Soderquist has declined then to comment on the investigation. 

In February, the State Board of Accounts audit ordered a former court employee — Soderquist ’s stepdaughter Miranda Brakley — to pay the city $13,130 for money she improperly received after she was fired in 2012. She was a deputy court clerk responsible for collecting bond payments for the Lake Station. But she never deposited $16,464 from 39 cases. 

A week after her firing, the Lake Station City Council moved two deputy positions from City Court Judge Christopher Anderson’s budget to the Clerk-Treasurer’s purview and Brakley was rehired. She received $468 for seven days vacation and $12,661 for unused compensatory and sick time even though she had only 30 minutes remaining in her vacation time. 

Two weeks later, Lake County Superior Court Judge Calvin Hawkins issued a temporary restraining order against the Brakley’s rehiring. 










FBI agents take computers from Lake Station City Hall 
Post-Tribune (IN) 
Saturday, November 16, 2013 
Author: BY CHRISTIN NANCE LAZERUS 
LAKE STATION — Federal Bureau of Investigation agents showed up at the office of Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist shortly before noon on Friday. 

An FBI van was parked in front of City Hall, and at least three agents were visible inside the office around noon. An office worker said no boxes of documents were taken from the office but the agents did interview the mayor. 

None of the FBI agents on the scene would comment. 

A caller to the Post-Tribune said FBI agents took computers out of the building, but an office worker who would not give her name disputed that, saying “not a thing” was removed. 

A city attorney said in October that federal investigators, over the summer, had subpoenaed documents from Lake Station’s Board of Works, over which Soderquist presides as president. 

Soderquist has declined then to comment on the investigation . 

In February, the State Board of Accounts audit ordered a former court employee — Soderquist’s stepdaughter Miranda Brakley — to pay the city $13,130 for money she improperly received after she was fired in 2012. She was a deputy court clerk responsible for collecting bond payments for the Lake Station. But she never deposited $16,464 from 39 cases. 

A week after her firing, the Lake Station City Council moved two deputy positions from City Court Judge Christopher Anderson’s budget to the Clerk-Treasurer’s purview and Brakley was rehired. She received $468 for seven days vacation and $12,661 for unused compensatory and sick time even though she had only 30 minutes remaining in her vacation time. 

Two weeks later, Lake County Superior Court Judge Calvin Hawkins issued a temporary restraining order against the Brakley’s rehiring. 










Federal agents execute search warrant at Lake Station City Hall
November 15, 2013 5:35 pm 
Deborah Laverty
NWI Times




LAKE STATION | Federal agents executed a search warrant Friday at Lake Station City Hall.

The federal agents, including three from the Internal Revenue Service and one the Federal Bureau of Investigations, said they could not discuss what they were seeking, why, or how long they would be in the city.

"We'll stay as long as it takes," one of the IRS agents said.

A city official, who asked not to be identified, said he had seen the city's computer information technology person enter the mayor's office Friday morning.

The official said the presence of a computer technology person might be an indication agents are seeking data from computer hard drives.

Kerry Hannigan, a public information officer of the IRS, said agents from her office were in Lake Station on "official business."

An FBI spokesman was not available for comment.

Mayor Keith Soderquist, who continued to work in his office Friday, said city officials were complying with requests by agents to turn over documents and information they were seeking.
This is not the first time federal agents have been in Lake Station seeking information.

Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Samuels confirmed earlier this fall agents had sought documents and information from her office.

Samuels said at that time the city continues to be part of an investigation launched by federal agents from the FBI and IRS in late June. She said she has received 10 subpoenas asking for records or information about the city.

Neither of the agents who has come to her office earlier this year told Samuels the purpose of the investigation, but from their timing and initial information sought, she believes the trigger was $15,880 in city bond collections that turned up missing late last year.

Financial errors, including the missing money, were discovered in a routine annual State Board of Accounts audit of Lake Station, state office supervisor Charles Pride said.

The $15,880 in missing funds was found in a bag inside the car of Miranda Brakley, a former city employee.

Brakley is the stepdaughter of Soderquist.

Once Brakley found the missing money, she turned it in to city officials, her attorney, Scott King, has said.

King said city employees had moved boxes into Brakley's car on her last day of employment and she had assumed they were her personal property.

"Even though she (Brakley) returned the money, when the FBI came in I assumed that is what triggered the investigation. It made sense," Samuels said.

In addition, many of the documents the agents were seeking centered around Brakley's former employment with the city court and the clerk's office, Samuels said.

Samuels said she also received a subpoena to testify in a grand jury hearing June 20 in Hammond but was subsequently notified she did not have to appear.

Samuels said the subpoena is open-ended, so she may still be asked to testify.

She said it's her understanding that other city employees and officials have been required to testify or have been interviewed by federal agents.

Although the initial probe centered on Brakley, the later part of the investigation has been more open-ended, seeking numerous documents, including City Council and Board of Works minutes and even information about the city's Food Pantry, Samuels said.

"The initial subpoenas had to do with Miranda, but then later the mayor told me the investigation was about him," Samuels said.

Soderquist said, at that time, he was aware of the investigation but has declined to speculate on what agents are hoping to find or whether the probe is about him or his stepdaughter.

"We are complying with their request for information," Soderquist said Friday.










FBI agents interview Lake Station mayor
State audit finds problems with Lake Station court fund
BY CHRISTIN NANCE LAZERUS
November 15, 2013 12:12PM
Updated: December 17, 2013 6:07AM
http://posttrib.suntimes.com/photos/galleries/23774086-417/fbi-agents-interview-lake-station-mayor.html#.VCAUPfldWSo






LAKE STATION — Federal Bureau of Investigation agents showed up at the office of Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist shortly before noon on Friday.

An FBI van was parked in front of City Hall, and at least three agents were visible inside the office around noon. An office worker said no boxes of documents were taken from the office but the agents did interview the mayor.

None of the FBI agents on the scene would comment.

A caller to the Post-Tribune said FBI agents took computers out of the building, but an office worker who would not give her name disputed that, saying “not a thing” was removed.

A city attorney said in October that federal investigators, over the summer, had subpoenaed documents from Lake Station’s Board of Works, over which Soderquist presides as president.

Soderquist has declined then to comment on the investigation.

In February, the State Board of Accounts audit ordered a former court employee — Soderquist’s stepdaughter Miranda Brakley — to pay the city $13,130 for money she improperly received after she was fired in 2012. She was a deputy court clerk responsible for collecting bond payments for the Lake Station. But she never deposited $16,464 from 39 cases.

A week after her firing, the Lake Station City Council moved two deputy positions from City Court Judge Christopher Anderson’s budget to the Clerk-Treasurer’s purview and Brakley was rehired. She received $468 for seven days vacation and $12,661 for unused compensatory and sick time even thought she only had 30 minutes remaining in her vacation time.


Two weeks later, Lake County Superior Court Judge Calvin Hawkins issued a temporary restraining order against the Brakley’s rehiring. 










Clerk-treasurer: Feds investigating Lake Station
October 09, 2013 7:15 pm 
Deborah Laverty
NWI Times


LAKE STATION | The city continues to be part of an investigation launched by federal agents in late June, said Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Samuels.

The investigation involves agents from the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service, she said.

She said she has received 10 subpoenas asking for records or information about the city.

Neither of the agents who has come to her office has told Samuels the purpose of the investigation, but from their timing and initial information sought, she believes the trigger was $15,880 in city bond collections that turned up missing late last year.

Financial errors, including the missing money, were discovered in a routine annual State Board of Accounts audit of Lake Station, state office supervisor Charles Pride said.

The $15,880 in missing funds was found in a bag inside the car of Miranda Brakley, a former city employee.

Brakley is the stepdaughter of Mayor Keith Soderquist.

Once Brakley found the missing money, she turned it in to city officials, her attorney, Scott King, has said.

King said city employees had moved boxes into Brakley's car on her last day of employment and she had assumed they were her personal property.

"Even though she (Brakley) returned the money, when the FBI came in I assumed that is what triggered the investigation. It made sense," Samuels said.

In addition, many of the documents the agents were seeking centered around Brakley's former employment with the city court and the clerk's office, Samuels said.

Samuels said she also has received a subpoena to testify in a grand jury hearing June 20 in Hammond but was subsequently notified she did not have to appear.

"The subpoena is open-ended, so I may still be asked to testify," Samuels said.

It's her understanding that other city employees and officials have been required to testify or have been interviewed by the federal agents.

Although the initial probe centered on Brakley, the later part of the investigation has been more open-ended, seeking numerous documents, including City Council and Board of Works minutes and even information about the city's Food Bank, Samuels said.

"The initial subpoenas had to do with Miranda, but then later the mayor told me the investigation was about him," Samuels said.

Soderquist said he's aware of the investigation but declined to speculate on what agents are hoping to find or whether the probe is about him or his stepdaughter.

"Of course we're complying. Everything is going through the clerk-treasurer's office," Soderquist said.

Soderquist said he has not received any subpoenas from federal agents.

Neither Brakley nor King could be reached for comment Wednesday.

FBI agent Nathan Holbrook, who Samuels said was one of two men conducting the audit, declined to comment when reached.

IRS Agent Steve Martinez couldn't be reached for comment.

FBI Agent and spokesman Bob Ramsey said he is out of the country and not sure if the investigation is active or if it even exists. 

He said it's the policy of the FBI not to comment on active investigations.











Lake Station court closing helps clerks balance books
Deborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223
May 13, 2013
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/lake-station/lake-station-court-closing-helps-clerks-balance-books/article_8df17f06-aa39-507e-81dd-2673b6fe9048.html

LAKE STATION | The City Court office is back to business as usual after a one-day closure to the public last Thursday, City Judge Chris Anderson said.

A sign posted in the window of the City Court last week stated, "As of May 7, Lake Station City Court will be closed on Thursdays until further notice."

Anderson said his two clerks used last Thursday to catch up on paperwork and to have time to balance cash books.

The court clerks were able to get enough work done so there shouldn't be an immediate need to close the office this week.

Anderson said he and his staff aren't ruling out the possibility of closing the office to the public at noon on Thursdays because it is one of the slower days.

"We're in the beginning stage of discussion," Anderson said.

City court clerk Kim Frizzell said the office closure was just temporary and allowed her and a second clerk a chance to catch up on paperwork, including some 1,000 bench warrants not taken care of in five years.

"This is just temporary and a chance to straighten out the mess that was here before me," Frizzell said.

Anderson said City Court, which is held every Tuesday and once a month on Friday, has remained unchanged.

Some city officials said they feared revenue being generated by the court had declined and the matter came to a head late last year when the City Council considered abolishing the City Court by Jan. 1, 2014.

The City Council dropped that decision in a move that was applauded by a standing-room-only crowd that came to City Hall to support Anderson.

The council agreed to instead meet with Anderson to work out any issues involving the court.

City officials and Anderson held a two-hour meeting in January but have not met since, Anderson said.

"We've provided the documentation that we're making money. There's nothing else for us to do," Anderson said.

Anderson has maintained that the issues with the court surfaced when on June 7 he fired the mayor's stepdaughter who had been a clerk under his supervision.

Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist has continued to deny that allegation.










Fired court deputy alleges Lake County judge serving improperly
Post-Tribune (IN) 
Thursday, February 21, 2013 

Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist ’s stepdaughter is suing City Judge Christopher Anderson, claiming he can’t legally serve as judge because he doesn’t live in Lake Station. 

Miranda Brakley’s attorney, Scott King, says in a release that evidence shows Anderson, who first took office in 2008, moved to Hobart before he was re-elected to office in November 2011 and when his new term started in January 2012. 

“Thus, when he dismissed our client from her job, he was not nor is he now the judge of the Lake Station court,” King says in the release. 

Brakley worked as a deputy for the Lake Station court until June, when Anderson fired her. A report by the State Board of Accounts has since found that Brakley never deposited about $16,000 worth of bond money; she later turned it over in December, claiming it had been sitting in her car without her knowing it. 

The State Board of Accounts also found that she improperly received about $13,000 when she was fired in vacation and other leave that she had not earned or was not owed. Along with demanding she pay the money back, the State Board of Accounts also claims she should pay more than $24,000 to the state to cover the cost of its investigation. 

King disputed the report when it came out earlier this year. 

Brakley’s lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Lake Circuit Court, claims that Anderson illegally fired her because he doesn’t live in Lake Station. It claims that by state law, Anderson must live in Lake Station to serve as its judge. 

She also says in her suit that Anderson punished her because he supported Soderquist ’s rival, Brian Cretton, in the most recent election for mayor . 

She is asking that a judge rule that Anderson is no longer the Lake Station judge, to reinstate her to her position with the city and to award her damages. 










Client Files Suit against City Judge
Lake Station mayor's stepdaughter files suit against city judge, city
02/21/2013
The Scott King Group Lawyers
Deborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223
www.scottkinggroup.com/News-Detail.aspx?type=2&newsID=81



LAKE STATION | A former city court clerk has filed a lawsuit claiming the city judge who fired her June 7 holds office illegally because he did not meet residency requirements. 

The suit was filed Wednesday in Lake Circuit Court on behalf of Miranda Brakley, a former city court clerk, Brakley's attorney Scott King said. 

Brakley is the stepdaughter of Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist. The suit filed Wednesday, on Brakley's behalf, includes a six-count complaint seeking a court determination that Lake Station City Judge Christopher Anderson illegally holds office. 

The basis of the complaint is Anderson had moved from Lake Station to Hobart before the November 2011 municipal election. State law deems his office vacated if he is not a resident, King said. "Our investigation has revealed that no later than Nov. 4, 2011, prior to the last municipal election, Anderson filed a document stating he was a resident of Hobart and that he continued that residency well after Jan. 1, 2012, when the current term of office began," King said. 

King said when Brakley was fired from her job June 7, Anderson was not the judge because he did not live in Lake Station. "Therefore, her firing was unlawful," King said. 

The complaint also alleges Brakley was fired for political reasons and that Anderson breached a written contract with Brakley when she was fired. The complaint seeks monetary damages from Anderson and the city of Lake Station as well as injunctive relief returning her to her job as soon as possible. 

"I adamantly deny all allegations," Anderson said, when reached by phone. Soderquist could not be reached for comment. 

Brakley was also the subject of a State Board of Accounts audit released earlier this month. 

The state is asking Brakley to pay back $37,182 for unapproved leave payments received as former court clerk and the cost of the audit. King has maintained Brakley doesn't owe the city or state any money because she hasn't done anything wrong. He filed a response on Brakley's behalf to the State Board of Accounts. 

Charles Pride, an office supervisor for the State Board of Accounts, said the financial errors were discovered in the routine annual audit of Lake Station. He said the report will be forwarded to the state's attorney general. "There's a possibility of criminal charges, but that's up the the attorney general who will handle this from this point forward," Pride said. 

King said he believes his client has been caught up in the middle of drama between the City Council and Anderson. 










State Board of Accounts audit critical of Lake Station's general fund operation
Times, The (Munster, IN) 
Wednesday, February 6, 2013 
Author: Deborah Laverty, The Times, Munster, Ind.

LAKE STATION -- The city needs to continue addressing its overdrawn cash and investment balance in its general fund, a State Board of Accounts audit stated. 

That was one of the key issues in the audit released Tuesday by the state, said Charles Pride, an office supervisor for the State Board of Accounts. 

The audit conducted covered finances of the city during fiscal year 2011. 

"They're not supposed to run funds in the red. We consider that a serious matter," Pride said. 

The criticism on the city's general fund balance doesn't come as a surprise to either Mayor Keith Soderquist or Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Samuels. 

"It's getting better, but until it's resolved, the state will continue to take note," Soderquist said. 

When Soderquist and Samuels took office in January 2008, the total calculated city debt was in the $3 million range, Soderquist said. 

"We've chunked away over $1.3 million from that debt, including $250,000 this past year," Soderquist said. 

To resolve financial problems and get the city back in the black, Soderquist said he previously hired financial consultant Umbaugh & Associates. 

Samuels works with Umbaugh & Associates on a near daily basis. 

"This will take years to overcome, but we will continue to lower our expenditures until we can rectify this issue," Samuels said. 

Soderquist said officials have managed to cut costs by reducing the budget, and, at the same time, improve on services. 

"We are bare boned. We're functioning and doing well but can't do any more reductions. We're hoping Lake County steps up on the 1 percent income tax. We're really struggling with the frozen levy and tax bill 1001," Soderquist said. 

Samuels said the city has responded to other issues in the 56-page audit, including the need for Lake Station to create a promotion ordinance. 

Samuels said the City Council did so Dec. 28, 2005. 










Lake Station mayor's stepdaughter asked to pay back $37,182
February 04, 2013 6:11 pm 
Deborah Laverty
NWI Times

LAKE STATION | A former city court clerk is being asked to pay back $37,182 for unapproved leave payments and the cost of an audit, the State Board of Accounts has determined.

The state audit released Monday said Miranda Brakley, the stepdaughter of Mayor Keith Soderquist, owes $13,160 for unapproved payment of leave, $664 for bond collections not received or deposited and $23,358 for state examination costs.

The state credited Brakley for an additional $15,800 she owed but turned in on Dec. 10, the audit stated. 

Brakley told those conducting the audit that the missing $15,800 bond collections had been in a bank bag inside a box inside her personal vehicle.

The money had been there without her knowledge since she had been dismissed, Brakley told auditors.

Scott King, Brakley's attorney, said his client doesn't owe the city or state any money.
"She hasn't done anything wrong," King said.

King has filed a response on Brakley's behalf to the State Board of Accounts.

King said he also has filed a notice of claim against the city stating Brakley was wrongfully terminated.

"At the end of the day, the city is going to owe her money for wrongly firing her," King said.

King, in his response to the state, said city employees had moved boxes into Brakley's car on her last day of employment and she had assumed they were her personal property.

Once Brakley found the missing funds, she turned them in, King said.

Charles Pride, an office supervisor for the State Board of Accounts, said the financial errors were discovered in the routine annual audit of Lake Station.

"Whenever we find some irregularities in a department audit we will choose to do a special report," Pride said.

He said the report will be forwarded to the state's attorney general.

"There's a possibility of criminal charges, but that's up the the attorney general who will handle this from this point forward," Pride said.

King said he believes his client has been caught up in the middle of drama between the City Council and City Judge Christopher Anderson.

"From all reports, Ms. Brakley was a pawn in a political battle between the presiding city judge and the other branches of government in Lake Station," King said.

Anderson has maintained that the issues with the court surfaced when on June 7 he fired the mayor's stepdaughter who had been a clerk under his supervision.

Soderquist has continued to deny that allegation.

Those issues have included a lawsuit filed by Anderson against the City Council after officials removed two of his clerks and action considered by the City Council to abolish the City Court.

The City Council reconsidered and met recently with Anderson to discuss issues it has with the court, including dwindling revenue. Neither Anderson nor Soderquist could be reached for comment.











State audit finds problems with Lake Station court fund
BY Teresa Auch Schultz tauch
February 4, 2013 11:24AM
Updated: February 4, 2013 - 10:33PM
http://posttrib.suntimes.com/photos/galleries/18006652-417/state-audit-finds-problems-with-lake-station-court-fund.html#.VCAVI_ldWSo


State authorities have stepped into the middle of a dispute between Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and Lake Station City Court Judge Christopher Anderson over the firing of Soderquist’s stepdaughter, claiming the city improperly paid her more than $13,000 after she was fired.

The State Board of Accounts released a report Thursday detailing its investigation into that and other issues dealing with the City Court, including the improper charging of court fees.

The report says that Miranda Brakley, Soderquist’s stepdaughter and deputy clerk for the City Court, was in charge of collecting bond payments from the Lake Station Police Department, processing the payments and then depositing them at the bank.

However, the SBOA found that bond money totalling $16,464 from 39 cases was never deposited.

Most of the money was recovered in December when Brakley turned in a bank bag containing $15,800, which she said was the bond money. She told the SBOA that the money had been sitting in her vehicle since she was fired in June.

It is not clear if the SBOA discovered that the money was missing before or after she was fired.

Brakley’s firing caused a stir at the time after the Lake Station City Council voted a week later to return control of the court clerks to the clerk-treasurer’s office, where they had been since 2008.

Soderquist speculated at the time that Anderson fired Brakley because he got wind of plans to remove the positions from his control.

Anderson and Soderquist could not be reached for comment.
Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Samuels subsequently rehired Brakley, although that lasted just two weeks when Lake County Superior Court Judge Calvin Hawkins issued a temporary restraining order against the move.

During that time period, the SBOA says, Brakley received $468 from the court fund for seven days of vacation and another $12,661 from the city’s general fund that was reportedly unusued compensatory and sick time. However, the SBOA claims that Brakley had already used all but half an hour of vacation pay by the time she was fired and that the judge never signed off on the payment. As for the other payment, the city had no authority to pay her, the SBOA says.

“Furthermore, except for retirees, employees within the Clerk-Treasurer’s Office could not name any other employee who received such compensation upon termination of employment whether voluntary or involuntary,” the SBOA report says.

The state agency also found discrepancies in payments she received for serving as an alcohol monitor, saying that there was no documentation of the hours she worked from 2008 to September 2011 and that some of the hours she claimed to have worked as the alochol monitor were the same hours she was working as court clerk.

The SBOA wants Brakley to repay Lake Station $13,130 and to pay the state of Indiana $23,358 for the investigation work.

She’s a ‘pawn’

Brakley’s attorney, Scott King, lambasted the report and said she never acted improperly or with malice.

“I really think that for whatever reason or reasons, they’re attempting to make her the whipping child here, and it’s completely inappropriate,” he said Monday. “... And then they have the audacity to seek the cost of the audit.”

King responded in writing to the report, saying in it that Brakley was a “pawn” in a political fight between Judge Anderson and other city officials. He noted that when Brakley was fired, she set aside a box of items, including the bank bag with $15,800, to turn over to the clerk-treasurer’s office. However, it seemed another court employee took that box along with others to Brakley’s car.

Thinking everything in the car was her personal belongings, King writes, Brakley never checked the boxes until December and did not realize the money was sitting in her car.

King said Monday he is in the process of filing a lawsuit on behalf of Brakley over her firing and said that Anderson might not even be legally allowed to serve as Lake Station judge because it appeared he does not live in the city. Anderson’s home address listed on election forms is 3405 Parkside Ave., which is in Lake Station.

Samuels said Monday the court clerks had originally been under her office but she had no knowledge of what they did, so she worked with Judge Anderson several years ago to move them to his supervision. No one with the City Council talked to her before voting to return the clerks back to her oversight, Samuels said. She said she Brakley back because she was familiar with how the office works.

As for paying the compensatory and sick time to Brakley, Samuels said it did go against city ordinance because it was not preapproved but that the city attorney told her to pay it because Brakley could prove she earned the hours in 2008.

“He said if you get sued, you’re going to pay triple,” she said.


Along with the issues surrounding Brakley, the SBOA also found that the Lake Station court has not been charging the correct fees to defendants.











State Board Of Accounts
Examination Report Of  Lake Station City Court - January 01, 2011 - September 30, 2012
January 31, 2013













Tempers flare during Lake Station City Council meeting to discuss City Court
By Deborah Laverty 
Jan 11, 2013 

LAKE STATION | Officials found little common ground during a special City Council meeting held Thursday to discuss revenue generated by the city courts.

Shouting matches, heated exchanges and allegations between officials characterized the nearly two hour meeting held in the mayor's conference room.

City Attorney Ray Szarmach at one point got up to leave following a heated exchange between City Judge Chris Anderson and Mayor Keith Soderquist during which Anderson implied Soderquist was a liar.

"I feel guilty charging the city for being here today because I don't think we're making any headway," Szarmach said.

Szarmach suggested the City Council appoint a committee of three to meet and discuss the issue with Anderson and court clerk Kim Frizzell.

City Council Todd Lara agreed and named to the committee council members John McDaniel, Garry Szostek and Todd Rogers.

"I'm fine with that," Anderson said.

Issues with what officials termed as  falling revenue being generated by the City Court came  to a head  last month when the City Council considered abolishing the City Court by Jan. 1, 2014.

That decision was abandoned by the City Council and was applauded by a standing-room-only crowd that came to City Hall to support Anderson.

The council agreed to instead meet with Anderson at the first of the year to work out any issues involving the court.

The issue of falling revenues in the court was debated at length on Thursday with Frizzell presenting figures showing the court had made money during the last four years.

Court revenue dipped in 2011 which was in sync with fewer court cases, Frizzell said.

Lara and Anderson debated at length on whether court deferral money should be included in the total revenue.

"Why not count it (deferral money) since it brought in revenue for the city?" Anderson asked.

Anderson also loudly denied accusations that he had waived any court fees during his tenure.

'I don't waive fees. Is it up to me? No I don't think it's appropriate for me to get involved," Anderson said.

Anderson suggested that during any future meetings that city officials have in attendance a member of the Lake County Data Board who could verify court financial figures. 

Anderson has maintained that the issues with the court surfaced when on June 7 he fired the mayor's stepdaughter who had been a clerk under his supervision.

"There were no issues before that date," Anderson said.

Soderquist has continued to deny that allegation.











Lake Station council looking at possibly abolishing city court
Deborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223 
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.










Stepdaughter of Lake Station mayor files discrimination claim against city judge
November 27, 2012 7:00 pm 
Deborah Laverty
NWI Times

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.











Lake Station juggles 2 court deputies
Post-Tribune (IN) 
Thursday, June 14, 2012 
Author: By Michael GOnzalez ; Post-Tribune correspondent

LAKE STATION — In a Wednesday night special meeting called less than a week after the mayor ’s stepdaughter was fired from her job with the city court, the City Council voted to strip two deputies’ jobs from the court and move them back to the clerk-treasurer’s budget. 

Miranda Brakley was the deputy terminated by City Judge Chris Anderson last week. 

The move highlighted the fallout between Mayor Keith Soderquist and Anderson. The two were political allies and friends when they first took office in 2008. 

Anderson could not be reached for comment late Wednesday. 

The two jobs were under the clerk-treasurer’s budget until November 2008, when the council voted to move the jobs to the court’s budget. With the Wednesday vote, the council returned the positions to their original budget item, but they still will work with the court, city attorney Ray Szarmach said. 

Soderquist , who enjoys the support of most of the council, insisted the council’s move was not a political or personal vendetta. He also suggested Anderson fired Brakley because the judge may have heard the two jobs would be stripped from his court. 

“(Brakley’s termination) possibly could be retaliation because (Anderson) got wind the council would do this,” he said. 

Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Samuels said she likely will rehire Brakley as a deputy working with the city court. 

“It will only make sense, since I don’t really know the court,” Samuels said. 

Soderquist said the council has been weighing the move since revenue from the court began plummeting two years ago. 

According to Soderquist , the city court — with an annual budget of $200,000, including the two deputy spots — has seen revenue from fees and citations drop from about $150,000 in 2009 to $58,000 last year. 

Police Chief Kevin Garber said his officers have been frustrated by what he called the judge’s frequent waiving of court fees and citations for offenders, which means less revenue for the city and his department. 

“I don’t know exactly how much we’re supposed to be collecting, but, obviously, if the city is collecting a third of what we used to collect, then that’s way less revenue for the department,” said Garber, adding his officers have been issuing about 500 tickets and citations a month since he took office in January. 










Clerk positions restored in Lake Station; firing no factor?
By Deborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223
Jun 13, 2012
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/lake-station/clerk-positions-restored-in-lake-station-firing-no-factor/article_84bb09bb-f783-5442-bff3-7aebb80dd132.html

LAKE STATION | The City Council on Wednesday agreed to move two clerk positions back under the supervision of the city's clerk-treasurer.

Mayor Keith Soderquist said the move, which transfers two clerks out of the supervision and budget of City Judge Chris Anderson, has nothing to do with judge's firing last week of Miranda Brakley, the mayor's stepdaughter.

"The two positions are going back under the budget and supervision of Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Samuels where they belong," Soderquist said.

Anderson, who didn't attend the meeting, said over the phone that he believes the illegal transfer of power is being made in retaliation for his firing Brakley as one of his two court clerks June 7.

"In my opinion the council doesn't not have the authority to transfer the control of my staff to the clerk-treasurer. And the only reason this is being done is the mayor is retaliating against me  because I fired his stepdaughter," Anderson said.

Anderson declined further comment at the advice of his legal counsel.

Soderquist said city officials have been planning to move the two positions back under the department from which they were removed four years ago.

"They are going home," Soderquist said.

The City Council in 2008 took action amending the clerk-treasurer's duties which included removal of two clerks under Samuel's supervision and budget and placing them under Anderson's supervision.

"Now the council wants to put the positions back," Soderquist said.

Soderquist denies the move has anything to do with the termination last week of his stepdaughter,  a former city court administrator.

Rather the move is something he and other city officials have been discussing for several months, Soderquist said.

"Transferring the two positions back to the clerk-treasurer's office will be more efficient. We began talking about this two months ago. It was already in the works of being done," Soderquist said.

Samuels, at the end of the meeting, confirmed that she will likely hire Brakley back as one of the two clerk positions she now supervises because of her on-the-job experience.

"It would make only sense to hire her," Samuels said. 










State auditors concerned about Lake Station finances
Times, The (Munster, IN) 
Saturday, October 29, 2011 
Author: Dan Carden, The Times, Munster, Ind.

INDIANAPOLIS -- State auditors reported Friday they have "substantial doubt" about Lake Station's "ability to continue as a going concern" due to the city's $1.8 million general fund deficit and the effect of property tax caps limiting future revenue. 

A State Board of Accounts audit said Lake Station must reduce spending to pay off its outstanding debt, which is projected to reach $2.4 million by the end of this year. 

This is the second consecutive year the state's auditing agency has questioned the city's ability to stay afloat. 

Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist said he inherited a $1.5 million deficit when he took office in 2008. 

It grew larger due to Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Samuels omitting part of the tax levy on a required state budgeting form, and because of city spending on the 2008 floods that was not reimbursed by the federal government, Soderquist said. 

"I didn't get us in this situation; I think people should know that, but I will get us out of it," Soderquist said. 

City spending for 2011 is projected to come in below city revenues and the mayor has proposed a similarly lean budget for 2012. But Soderquist said the city's finances can't be fixed in a year. 

"I'm not going to cut police, fire, ambulance; I'm just not going to cut safety services," Soderquist said. "It's going to be a multiyear repair and until we are completely repaired, we will continue to get these audits that question what's going on financially." 

The mayor said Lake Station might be able to get most of the money needed to resolve its budget deficit by selling the Ind. 51 site of its former city hall for commercial development. 

Soderquist said that while he'd prefer to spend any money from that sale on other city projects, it's just as important to use it to get the city's finances in shape. 










State auditors warn city not to continue operating in red
Post-Tribune (IN) 
Saturday, October 23, 2010 
BY Christin Nance Lazerus 

LAKE STATION -- The State Board of Accounts is warning Lake Station that it could face bankruptcy if it continues to operate at a deficit. 

State auditors estimated that the city's general fund budget could be $1.5 million in the red by the end of this year. 

"The amount of cash and investment deficit balances and the fact that tax levies have been set to statutory limits raises substantial doubt about the city's ability to continue as going concern," the audit stated. 

The city has spent nearly $6.5 million in excess of revenues since 2009 due to a failure to respond to the Department of Local Government Finance in a timely manner. As a result, the general, ambulance nonreverting and sanitary district bond funds did not have an appropriation. 

In the city's official response, Mayor Keith Soderquist and Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Sam-uels told auditors that the problems are inherited from the previous administration. The city has retained a financial consultant -- HJ Umbaugh and Associates -- to correct the problems and find viable options to eliminate the general fund deficit as quickly as possible. 

The letter states that city officials do not know why the city did not respond to the DLGF about its 1782 Notice. 

The audit listed several other problems, including the failure to use purchase orders, not listing a leased vehicle for the mayor as a taxable fringe benefit and paying $635.94 in interest charges and late fees on city-issued credit cards. 

Also, the city did not prepare a Schedule of Federal Grant Receipts and Disbursements for 2009. 

On Sept. 30, the city sanitary board raised taxes to pay off a bond on a court-ordered debt to the Gary Sanitary District. Each household will owe an extra $150 in property taxes. Officials said that then-mayor Shirley Wadding never informed the council that they had to raise sewer rates to meet the increased rates from GSD, which provides sewer services to the city. 












December 04, 2012: 
Online petition to have Soderquist removed from office 
Charge.org 
By Abbi Holcomb – Lake Station Indiana 
http://www.change.org/p/lake-station-indiana-mayor-keith-soderquist-step-down-as-mayor-of-the-city