Soderquists contend money legitimately owed them
August 30, 2015
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 Later, $300 was withdrawn from the account and about two hours later the pair were allegedly gambling at Four Winds Casino.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.