Saturday, October 14, 2017

Life in the UP - Photography therapy after surviving corrupt Porter County Indiana


Yes, I will admit, that after seven years, I still have moments where I break down when I think of what I was subjected to in Porter County - especially the horrific deaths of Abbi Mae and Bailey Su.

But finally after returning home, the PTSD has finally subsided enough that I can go out and get lost in my photography:





























































Wednesday, September 6, 2017

No means no, Portage Mayor James Snyder - You can't change someone's morals and ethics



Porter County Commissioner Jim Biggs made it clear that county commissioners won't negotiate with a public official under indictment. Perhaps Portage Mayor James Snyder needs to learn that he cannot bully, pressure, and/or persuade people to change their mortals and ethics.





UPDATE: County official to Portage: Joint building project is 'dead' idea
NWI Times
September 06, 2017
PORTAGE — The idea of a joint county/city building in Portage is dead, according to one Porter County official.

"It is dead. It would have never worked anyway," Porter County Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, said Wednesday morning after learning city officials here are trying to resurrect an effort to construct a new city/county building in Portage's downtown.

At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, Portage officials attempted to revive the idea, including having a consultant report on a recently completed cost/benefit analysis that concluded the project would be a good financial move by both the city and county.

City Council President Mark Oprisko, D-at-large, said Tuesday night the two sides have to get past "internal bickering" and do what's best for the residents.

He also said he had set up a meeting with Good next week. 

Good said Wednesday morning that isn't true. He talked to Oprisko "for a few seconds" recently, but never set up a meeting.

He also disputed the accuracy of the report.

"The study was tainted. SEH never contacted us. They never got numbers from us," said Good. The property where the city would like the new building constructed is also not adequate for the county's needs, he said.

The idea of a joint building was dashed for good about two weeks ago when the county commissioners and County Council initiated a multimillion-dollar bond issue which would include money to renovate the North Porter County Annex on Willowcreek Road south of U.S. 6.

"The county made a decision to do their own thing. It has nothing to do with politics," said Good.

"We plead with the county to put aside all political, personal differences and think of all the citizens," said Andy Maletta, the city's economic development director, at Tuesday's meeting.

Maletta said the city's plan to construct a building on five acres between the city's police and fire stations on Central Avenue would save the county money in the long run by sharing services with the city. He also said the location would drive traffic to the city's newly developed downtown and that the location would not only better serve residents of Portage, but Chesterton, Porter and Burns Harbor as well.

Dan Botich, senior economic development professional of SEH, presented the cost-benefits analysis Tuesday night. The analysis looked at three scenarios, including renovating the county and city building, each entity constructing separate new buildings and entering the joint venture.

"It determines if the investment is sound, feasible and justified. It does not take into account the political decisions," said Botich.

The analysis determined it would be cost beneficial to the county to enter the joint project by spending less than the projected $10 million to renovate the present building.

However, said Botich, more importantly, it would open up the 13 acres on Willowcreek Road, the city hall site and surrounding area to additional development opportunities, spurring economic development and bringing more tax dollars into both the county and city.

The city has pledged a $9 million to $12 million investment, including purchasing the present county building, donating the five-acre site, constructing a parking garage and committing $5 million for construction of the new building.










Portage officials aren't giving up on getting county/city building in its downtown
NWI Times
September 06, 2017
PORTAGE — Officials here aren't giving up on convincing their county counterparts to construct a new city/county building on five acres downtown.

City Council President Mark Oprisko, D-at-large, said Tuesday night the two sides have to get past "internal bickering" and do what's best for the residents.

Mayor James Snyder has been trying to convince members of the Porter County Council and Commissioners to join the city and construct a new building on Central Avenue since he took office more than five years ago.

That idea seemed dashed about two weeks ago when the county bodies initiated a multi-million dollar bond issue which would include money to renovate the North Porter County Annex on Willowcreek Road south of U.S. 6. The county vote came despite a last-minute effort by the city to produce a cost-benefit analysis to county officials on why it would be better for the groups to join in constructing a new building that would serve the county and serve as a new city hall.

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, the issue was brought up again.

Oprisko said he has a meeting with Porter County Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, next week.

"We plead with the county to put aside all political, personal differences and think of all the citizens," said Andy Maletta, the city's economic development director.

Maletta said the city's plan to construct a building on five acres between the city's police and fire station on Central Avenue would save the county money in the long run by sharing services with the city. He also said the location would drive traffic to the city's newly developed downtown and that the location would not only better serve residents of Portage, but Chesterton, Porter and Burns Harbor as well.

In addition, by constructing the joint building, said Maletta, it would open up the land now housing the county building and city hall for additional economic development.

Dan Botich, senior economic development professional of SEH, presented the cost-benefits analysis Tuesday night. The analysis looked at three scenarios, including renovating the county and city building, each entity constructing separate new buildings and entering the joint venture.

"It determines if the investment is sound, feasible and justified. It does not take into account the political decisions," said Botich.

The analysis determined it would be cost beneficial to the county to enter the joint project by spending less than the projected $10 million to renovate the present building.

However, said Botich, more importantly, it would open up the 13 acres on Willowcreek Road, the city hall site and surrounding area to additional development opportunities, spurring economic development and bringing more tax dollars into both the county and city.

The city has pledge a $9 million to $12 million investment, including purchasing the present county building, donating the five-acre site, constructing a parking garage and committing $5 million for construction of the new building.

"We know the odds of getting this done are against us," said Clerk-Treasurer Chris Stidham, asking how the building would ensure continued economic development in the city's downtown.

Botich said it is a matter of demographics, using the building as an anchor and drawing not only employees of the county, but visitors to the new building to the downtown and to nearby retail and commercial businesses.









Commissioner: Porter County won't negotiate with indicted Portage mayor
Post-Tribune
August 29, 2017

The Porter County Commissioners will not negotiate with indicted Portage Mayor James Snyder over a plan to partner for a combined city/county building in the city's new downtown district, an official said.

Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, said in the days after the county council approved a $30 million bond for capital upgrades in the county, including expansion and renovation of the existing North County Annex on Willowcreek Road, that commissioners won't consider Portage's proposal for two reasons: financial feasibility and the November indictment of Snyder on federal charges of allegedly violating federal bribery statutes and obstructing Internal Revenue Service laws. Snyder has pleaded not guilty and is expected to go to trial early next year.

Snyder deferred comment on the matter to Economic Development Director Andy Maletta and Portage City Council President Mark Oprisko, D-At large.

Biggs, who pointed out that he is a Portage native, said county officials met with Portage officials about the proposal and determined that the most financially feasible option was for the county to upgrade the building it already owns in Portage.

He also said commissioners won't negotiate with a public official under indictment.

"The proposal cannot be accomplished without the cooperation of that city's mayor, and I'm not going to do it," Biggs said, adding the county's relationship with Snyder has been riddled with controversies, including over placement of the county's new animal shelter, and county officials have learned "that there is no negotiating with him."

"I am totally sympathetic to Portage officials that they have this shroud of uncertainty having over city government but it's there nonetheless," he continued.

City and county officials have been talking for three years about the possibility of a new county annex along Central Avenue, Oprisko said, calling the commissioners' response "pretty sad and pretty pathetic."

"Obviously I've wasted a lot of energy and dialogue," he said, adding city officials wanted to bring more development to the emerging downtown. "Portage has never had a downtown. This is a big thing for us."

City officials aren't asking for a handout from the county, he said, but for county officials to listen to them.

"It's all about Snyder," he said. "It comes down to Snyder but it's really sad because the city of Portage has more than 40,000 residents."

The County Council approved the bond issue on Aug. 22, and it includes spending $10 million to renovate and expand the North County Annex.

"I think it's at least worth vetting," said Maletta.

Portage would have committed $5 million intended for remodeling of its city hall to the project and the city's redevelopment commission would have purchased the county's building on Willowcreek, officials said. The city also offered to build a parking garage, and the redevelopment commission proposed donating the land for the combined building.

Commissioners and council members received an outline of the proposal and a letter supporting it from Maletta the evening before the council meeting.

"It wasn't malicious. It wasn't mean to anybody," Maletta said of the letter. "I even said in there that we are in support of them passing the bond."

The city of Portage paid the consulting firm SEH to put together the proposal at the request of the council, Maletta said, adding that Snyder purposefully removed himself from the matter so it wouldn't be volatile.

Portage officials were dismayed by video of the segment of the meeting on the bond issue, which is available on YouTube, and the reaction of commissioners, Maletta said, adding he didn't know if Snyder's indictment was a good enough excuse not to pursue a partnership.

"It's not fair to all of us working here to make (Portage) a better place," he said.

During the council meeting, Councilman Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, said he understood the pause among commissioners about dealing with Snyder, given the mayor's legal concerns.

Rivas said his fellow elected officials know how he feels about Snyder; in the weeks after Snyder's indictment, Rivas issued a statement requesting the mayor's resignation.

Still, he wanted commissioners to at least consider Portage officials' request for a partnership because good things could come out of it.

"The entire population of Portage has not been indicted," Rivas said.



Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Porter County Commissioners ROCK - Shut down federally indicted Mayor Snyder's plan to partner for a combined city/county building


You've gotta love it: Porter County Commissioners refused to negotiate a plan to partner with Portage Mayor James Snyder for a combined city/county building in Portage - because of Snyder's federal indictment. That's what you call standing by your convictions. 








Commissioner: Porter County won't negotiate with indicted Portage mayor
Post-Tribune
August 29, 2017
chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-portage-county-plan-st-0830-20170829-story.html

The Porter County Commissioners will not negotiate with indicted Portage Mayor James Snyder over a plan to partner for a combined city/county building in the city's new downtown district, an official said.

Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, said in the days after the county council approved a $30 million bond for capital upgrades in the county, including expansion and renovation of the existing North County Annex on Willowcreek Road, that commissioners won't consider Portage's proposal for two reasons: financial feasibility and the November indictment of Snyder on federal charges of allegedly violating federal bribery statutes and obstructing Internal Revenue Service laws. Snyder has pleaded not guilty and is expected to go to trial early next year.

Snyder deferred comment on the matter to Economic Development Director Andy Maletta and Portage City Council President Mark Oprisko, D-At large.

Biggs, who pointed out that he is a Portage native, said county officials met with Portage officials about the proposal and determined that the most financially feasible option was for the county to upgrade the building it already owns in Portage.

He also said commissioners won't negotiate with a public official under indictment.

"The proposal cannot be accomplished without the cooperation of that city's mayor, and I'm not going to do it," Biggs said, adding the county's relationship with Snyder has been riddled with controversies, including over placement of the county's new animal shelter, and county officials have learned "that there is no negotiating with him."

"I am totally sympathetic to Portage officials that they have this shroud of uncertainty having over city government but it's there nonetheless," he continued.

City and county officials have been talking for three years about the possibility of a new county annex along Central Avenue, Oprisko said, calling the commissioners' response "pretty sad and pretty pathetic."

"Obviously I've wasted a lot of energy and dialogue," he said, adding city officials wanted to bring more development to the emerging downtown. "Portage has never had a downtown. This is a big thing for us."

City officials aren't asking for a handout from the county, he said, but for county officials to listen to them.

"It's all about Snyder," he said. "It comes down to Snyder but it's really sad because the city of Portage has more than 40,000 residents."

The County Council approved the bond issue on Aug. 22, and it includes spending $10 million to renovate and expand the North County Annex.

"I think it's at least worth vetting," said Maletta.

Portage would have committed $5 million intended for remodeling of its city hall to the project and the city's redevelopment commission would have purchased the county's building on Willowcreek, officials said. The city also offered to build a parking garage, and the redevelopment commission proposed donating the land for the combined building.

Commissioners and council members received an outline of the proposal and a letter supporting it from Maletta the evening before the council meeting.

"It wasn't malicious. It wasn't mean to anybody," Maletta said of the letter. "I even said in there that we are in support of them passing the bond."

The city of Portage paid the consulting firm SEH to put together the proposal at the request of the council, Maletta said, adding that Snyder purposefully removed himself from the matter so it wouldn't be volatile.

Portage officials were dismayed by video of the segment of the meeting on the bond issue, which is available on YouTube, and the reaction of commissioners, Maletta said, adding he didn't know if Snyder's indictment was a good enough excuse not to pursue a partnership.

"It's not fair to all of us working here to make (Portage) a better place," he said.

During the council meeting, Councilman Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, said he understood the pause among commissioners about dealing with Snyder, given the mayor's legal concerns.

Rivas said his fellow elected officials know how he feels about Snyder; in the weeks after Snyder's indictment, Rivas issued a statement requesting the mayor's resignation.

Still, he wanted commissioners to at least consider Portage officials' request for a partnership because good things could come out of it.

"The entire population of Portage has not been indicted," Rivas said.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

US Attorney Ryan Holmes and FBI - Please take federally indicted Portage Mayor James Snyder DOWN


US Attorney Ryan Holmes and FBI, 
Immediately following the federal conviction of Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, Mayor Snyder slapped our justice system in the face, with claims of his own innocence. The arrogance and disrespect that Snyder has displayed, in order to boost  his egotistical belief that he is above the law, is disgusting and disturbing.

I have had to deal head-on with the corruption in Porter County for the past several years - because I had the balls to report corrupt Porter County Magistrate James Johnson. One of the officials I had to go toe-to-toe with was none other than "innocent" Mayor James Snyder.

It was James Snyder / First Financial Trust Mortgage LLC, who assisted my ex [James Clarence Thomas] in hiding hundreds of thousands of dollars of MY marital assets. The Portage police officers who unlawfully entered my home - in retaliation for me having reported Magistrate Johnson - will be able to give you the details on the amount of MY money that was hidden by Snyder, as they discussed this openly over the police radio the day of the unlawful entry. It is believed the funds Snyder hid were in the neighborhood of hundreds of thousands of dollars - possibly towards a million dollars. Snyder hid these funds during the time he was under investigation by the IRS.

It was also Mayor James Snyder who halted an investigation into the unlawful police entry into my home and the resulting deaths of my beloved furbabies Abbi Mae and Bailey Su - who were later killed at the Hobart Humane Society - instead of being returned to me.

I have never obtained my marital assets that Snyder hid, nor have I have received answers or justice for the unlawful police entry into my home and the deaths of Abbi Mae and Bailey Su - because of the corrupt actions of Mayor James Snyder.

On behalf of myself and anyone else who has had to deal with corrupt Mayor James Snyder, please take this son of a bitch down.

I am moving home to Michigan in mid-September  - Please feel free to contact me, if there is anything I can provide you with in taking Snyder down - this is personal now, eh.

Renee' Harrington
michigan.oidv@gmail.com










Portage mayor also facing charges on Lake County sheriff's conviction: 'It enforces my innocence'
Post Tribune
August 24, 2017

Portage Mayor James Snyder, indicted in November for allegedly soliciting money for towing contracts, said there are differences between his case and that of Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, who was convicted Thursday on public corruption charges.

In a prepared statement in response to Buncich's conviction on federal counts of wire fraud, honest services wire fraud and bribery, Snyder said there are distinct differences between the two cases and the prosecutor's arguments in the Buncich case in fact re-enforce Snyder's innocence.

"I don't think that the Sheriff Buncich conviction will affect the Mayor Snyder trial in any way," said Thomas Dogan, a Portage attorney who is part of Snyder's legal team.

"Any cash the mayor has ever had given to him has been properly represented in his campaign reports," Dogan said, adding Snyder had a professional treasurer to keep track of his campaign donations.

Snyder, like Buncich, entered a plea of not guilty after he was charged with John Cortina, of Kustom Auto Body in Portage, with violating a federal bribery statute.

Federal prosecutors said at the time that Snyder allegedly solicited money from Cortina, a local towing operator, and "Individual A" and gave them a towing contract for Portage.

Snyder also received a bribery indictment for allegedly accepting $13,000 in connection with a board of works contract and allegedly obstructed Internal Revenue Service laws.

In his statement, Snyder said that unlike Buncich, he has never taken cash and all of his campaign contributions are recorded accurately. Federal prosecutors showed video recordings of Buncich accepting cash during his trial, and also offered testimony that he received cash contributions that did not appear on his campaign finance reports.

"Holding an elected official accountable for the intent of a donor would indict all elected officials who are not independently wealthy and have to raise funds to get their message out," Snyder said.

In his statement, Snyder said Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson's arguments against Buncich prove his own defense and in no way complicate his case.

"It enforces my innocence," Snyder said. "In order to gain a conviction the prosecution would have to argue a complete double standard from their own arguments against the sheriff."

Dogan said Snyder is alluding to the fact that informants testified in the Buncich case that in their minds, they were paying bribes, "and in the mayor's case, that certainly would not support a conviction."

Snyder goes on to say in his statement that he has been "transparent, cooperative and honorable" in his conduct with the federal government and the city of Portage.

"My family, my staff and the city continue to prosper under this cloud and we are grateful to the outpouring of goodness we have received," he said.

Snyder and Cortina are scheduled to go on trial in January.










Portage mayor says his public corruption case is different than Sheriff Buncich
NWI Times
Aug 24, 2017

Portage Mayor James Snyder, who faces federal corruption and bribery charges, said there are distinct differences between his case and the one that led to Thursday's public corruption conviction against Lake County Sheriff John Buncich.

"I have never taken cash; all of contributions are recorded accurately and holding an elected official accountable for the intent of a donor would indict all elected officials who are not independently wealthy and have to raise funds to get their message out," Snyder said in a prepared statement requested by The Times.

"The prosecutor's own arguments against the sheriff prove my defense and in no way complicated my case; it enforces my innocence," he said.

"I have been transparent, cooperative and honorable in my conduct with the federal government," Snyder said. "My family, my staff and the city continue to prosper under this cloud, and we are grateful to the outpouring of goodness we have received."

Snyder's federal trial is set for Jan. 28 before U.S. District Court Judge Rudy Lozano.

He was indicted in November and has pleaded not guilty to felony counts of bribery, extortion and tax dodging, which carry long prison terms if he is convicted.

Snyder is accused in the bribery count of corruptly soliciting and receiving $12,000 from tow truck operator John Cortina in return for providing Cortina with a towing contract with the city. Cortina is charged with corruptly offering those checks to Snyder.

Snyder is also charged with corruptly soliciting and agreeing to accept a bank check in the amount of $13,000 in connection with Portage Board of Works contracts, a Portage Redevelopment Commission project and other consideration.

The third charge accuses Snyder of obstructing and impeding the Internal Revenue Service’s collection of personal taxes he owed and payroll taxes owed by his mortgage business, First Financial Trust Mortgage LLC.










UPDATE: Sheriff John Buncich guilty
U.S. Attorney keeps perfect record on public corruption cases
NWI Times
August 24, 2017

HAMMOND — A U.S. District Court jury has found Lake County Sheriff John Buncich guilty on all six counts of wire fraud, honest services wire fraud and bribery.

The jury came back to the courtroom at 10:05 a.m. after deliberating for four hours Wednesday night and one hour this morning.

Buncich is free on bond until his sentencing on Dec. 6, when he faces lengthy prison time. He is also immediately removed from office.

Buncich displayed no emotion when his verdict was read in open court Thursday morning. Some of his supporters in the audience appeared shocked and grief stricken.

Bryan Truitt, one of Buncich's defense attorneys, said he didn't agree with the verdict and would be preparing an appeal. Buncich declined comment outside the courthouse in Hammond.

Larry Rogers, another of Buncich's attorneys, argued Wednesday night to the jury the government entrapped Buncich by giving him tens of thousands in cash uninvited and selectively editing dozens of hours of audio and video recordings to make Buncich look his worst.

The defense offered no video of its own.

Buncich took the daring step of answering the charges by testifying over three days of the trial. He insisted he was legitimately raising campaign contributions and didn't manipulate towing assignments to reward the largest donors.

But he couldn't explain away images of his grabbing and pocketing large wads of cash taken surreptitiously by the FBI and their undercover agent, Scott Jurgensen, a former Merrillville police man and towing firm owner.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson told jurors Wednesday night, "Does this look like a campaign contribution? He was taking money for doing his job. It's time to hold him responsible."

US ATTORNEY IMPROVES RECORD
Acting United States Attorney Clifford Johnson states that “The United States Attorney’s Office will continue to vigorously prosecute public officials who use their public office as means for personal enrichment. All citizens deserve public officials who work for the public interest and not their own interest.”

W. Jay Abbott, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Indianapolis Division, said "Public officials who abuse their positions for personal financial gain at the expense of the taxpayers will not be tolerated. The FBI and our federal, state, and local partners will continue to aggressively pursue those across Indiana who corrupt their office for self-serving motives.

Johnson added, "Also instrumental in these investigations are the honest and patriotic citizens who come forward and assist in uncovering the truth as was the case in Lake County."

John Dull, who has been county attorney for several decades, said Thursday the U.S. Attorney's office has won all of the public corruption cases it has prosecuted against elected public officials since the 1970s. He said most of them pleaded guilty rather than risk trial.

'SAD SAGA' ENDS
Mike Repay, president of the Lake County Board of Commissioners, issued a statement Thursday afternoon that said, "This is the end of a sad saga for the people of Lake County, who put their trust in John Buncich to enforce the law and remain accountable to the public."

"John Buncich violated the public trust with his actions. It will not only cost him his freedom, it adds another black mark against Lake County," Repay said.

Repay added the Board of Commissioners offer their full support to Lake County Chief of Police Matt Eaton who will supervise the sheriff's department until a caucus of Lake County Democratic precinct committeemen and vice committeemen elect a new sheriff next month.

The investigation of the sheriff began with a wide-ranging FBI investigation of local government towing contracts when they recruited Jurgensen who took up towing after he retired after 20 years as a Merrillville police officer.

He testified on the first day of trial he was frustrated that he couldn't get a contract from the department he had served for so long because he wouldn't pay bribes.

Jurgensen said he was one of about a dozen who had received towing contracts from the sheriff's department. He said he didn't have to pay to get on the list, but Downs, a longtime friend, approached him on behalf of the sheriff to buy campaign fundraising ticket.

STATEMENT FROM PORTAGE MAYOR JAMES SNYDER

Statement from Portage Mayor James Snyder, who has been indicted on federal bribery and tax charges. His trial is set to begin in January:

"There are distinct differences between the two cases, I have never taken cash; all of contributions are recorded accurately and holding an elected official accountable for the intent of a donor would indict all elected officials who are not independently wealthy and have to raise funds to get their message out.

The prosecutor's own arguments against the sheriff prove my defense and in no way complicated my case; it enforces my innocence.

I have been transparent, cooperative and honorable in my conduct with the federal government. My family, my staff and the City continue to prosper under this cloud and we are grateful to the outpouring of goodness we have received."

VIDEO EVIDENCE 
The FBI wired Jurgensen and gave him buy money to give to Downs. The later arrested Downs and forced his cooperation with their undercover investigation. Downs carried a video camera into the sheriff's office in 2015 to deliver campaign crash.

Jurgensen video taped two meetings with the sheriff in which cash changed hands.

Buncich's lawyers criticized FBI tactics for paying Jurgensen $130,000 over a five-year period.

They suggested Downs was unbelievable as a witness because he pocketed some of the money he collected for the sheriff.

They characterized as a drunk William "Willie" Szarmach, a Lake Station towing owner who pleaded guilty to paying the sheriff kickbacks and who testified as government witness.

Benson answer was to replay for jurors the video tapes.

An FBI video surveillance recording of: Buncich's second-in-command Timothy Downs delivering $7,500 July 15, 2015, to Buncich in the sheriff's office.

An FBI video surveillance recording of Buncich leaning into Szarmach's tow truck and Jurgensen giving Buncich $2,500 April 22, 2016, in the parking lot outside of Delta Restaurant in Merrillville.

An FBI video surveillance recording of Jurgensen giving Buncich $2,500 on July 21, 2016, in the parking lot outside of Delta Restaurant in Merrillville.

FBI surveillance photographs of a meeting Sept. 2, between Jurgensen and Buncich in which Jurgensen gives the sheriff $7,500.

Benson said of the sheriff, "He never thought anyone would see that. If you didn't see it. You wouldn't believe it."

Benson praised Jurgensen's courage. "Think about the guts it took for Mr. Jurgensen to do this to himself and his business and family. What does he get for it? He's called a liar on the witness stand. Its hell to be a cooperator."

Defense lawyers argued the sheriff never delivered more lucrative towing to Jurgensen or Szarmach despite their political contributions.

Benson disagreed, but said it was illegal for the sheriff to take the money and make such promises regardless of the outcome. Even if the sheriff rips them off, its still a crime."

Federal conviction of Lake County Sheriff John Buncich - Proof that justice prevails



Federal conviction of Lake County Sheriff John Buncich - Result of extraordinary efforts and dedication by US Attorney Ryan Holmes, the FBI, and retired police officer Scott Jurgensen, to ensure justice. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

08242017 - Federally indicted Portage Mayor Snyder claims: "I have never taken cash"


Shortly after the guilty verdict was announced in Sheriff John Buncich's federal trial, Mayor James Snyder issued a statement, proclaiming his innocence on federal charges.

REALLY???!!!! 

When is Portage Mayor James Snyder going to realize that not everyone is drinking his Koolaid








UPDATE: Sheriff John Buncich guilty
U.S. Attorney keeps perfect record on public corruption cases
NWI Times
August 24, 2017
nwitimes.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/update-sheriff-john-buncich-guilty-u-s-attorney-keeps-perfect/article_8f97728a-ee8c-5fde-bb22-1a3ac62fce39.html

HAMMOND — A U.S. District Court jury has found Lake County Sheriff John Buncich guilty on all six counts of wire fraud, honest services wire fraud and bribery.

The jury came back to the courtroom at 10:05 a.m. after deliberating for four hours Wednesday night and one hour this morning.

Buncich is free on bond until his sentencing on Dec. 6, when he faces lengthy prison time. He is also immediately removed from office.

Buncich displayed no emotion when his verdict was read in open court Thursday morning. Some of his supporters in the audience appeared shocked and grief stricken.

Bryan Truitt, one of Buncich's defense attorneys, said he didn't agree with the verdict and would be preparing an appeal. Buncich declined comment outside the courthouse in Hammond.

Larry Rogers, another of Buncich's attorneys, argued Wednesday night to the jury the government entrapped Buncich by giving him tens of thousands in cash uninvited and selectively editing dozens of hours of audio and video recordings to make Buncich look his worst.

The defense offered no video of its own.

Buncich took the daring step of answering the charges by testifying over three days of the trial. He insisted he was legitimately raising campaign contributions and didn't manipulate towing assignments to reward the largest donors.

But he couldn't explain away images of his grabbing and pocketing large wads of cash taken surreptitiously by the FBI and their undercover agent, Scott Jurgensen, a former Merrillville police man and towing firm owner.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson told jurors Wednesday night, "Does this look like a campaign contribution? He was taking money for doing his job. It's time to hold him responsible."

US ATTORNEY IMPROVES RECORD
Acting United States Attorney Clifford Johnson states that “The United States Attorney’s Office will continue to vigorously prosecute public officials who use their public office as means for personal enrichment. All citizens deserve public officials who work for the public interest and not their own interest.”

W. Jay Abbott, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Indianapolis Division, said "Public officials who abuse their positions for personal financial gain at the expense of the taxpayers will not be tolerated. The FBI and our federal, state, and local partners will continue to aggressively pursue those across Indiana who corrupt their office for self-serving motives.

Johnson added, "Also instrumental in these investigations are the honest and patriotic citizens who come forward and assist in uncovering the truth as was the case in Lake County."

John Dull, who has been county attorney for several decades, said Thursday the U.S. Attorney's office has won all of the public corruption cases it has prosecuted against elected public officials since the 1970s. He said most of them pleaded guilty rather than risk trial.

'SAD SAGA' ENDS
Mike Repay, president of the Lake County Board of Commissioners, issued a statement Thursday afternoon that said, "This is the end of a sad saga for the people of Lake County, who put their trust in John Buncich to enforce the law and remain accountable to the public."

"John Buncich violated the public trust with his actions. It will not only cost him his freedom, it adds another black mark against Lake County," Repay said.

Repay added the Board of Commissioners offer their full support to Lake County Chief of Police Matt Eaton who will supervise the sheriff's department until a caucus of Lake County Democratic precinct committeemen and vice committeemen elect a new sheriff next month.

The investigation of the sheriff began with a wide-ranging FBI investigation of local government towing contracts when they recruited Jurgensen who took up towing after he retired after 20 years as a Merrillville police officer.

He testified on the first day of trial he was frustrated that he couldn't get a contract from the department he had served for so long because he wouldn't pay bribes.

Jurgensen said he was one of about a dozen who had received towing contracts from the sheriff's department. He said he didn't have to pay to get on the list, but Downs, a longtime friend, approached him on behalf of the sheriff to buy campaign fundraising ticket.

STATEMENT FROM PORTAGE MAYOR JAMES SNYDER
Statement from Portage Mayor James Snyder, who has been indicted on federal bribery and tax charges. His trial is set to begin in January:

"There are distinct differences between the two cases, I have never taken cash; all of contributions are recorded accurately and holding an elected official accountable for the intent of a donor would indict all elected officials who are not independently wealthy and have to raise funds to get their message out.

The prosecutor's own arguments against the sheriff prove my defense and in no way complicated my case; it enforces my innocence.

I have been transparent, cooperative and honorable in my conduct with the federal government. My family, my staff and the City continue to prosper under this cloud and we are grateful to the outpouring of goodness we have received."

VIDEO EVIDENCE 
The FBI wired Jurgensen and gave him buy money to give to Downs. The later arrested Downs and forced his cooperation with their undercover investigation. Downs carried a video camera into the sheriff's office in 2015 to deliver campaign crash.

Jurgensen video taped two meetings with the sheriff in which cash changed hands.

Buncich's lawyers criticized FBI tactics for paying Jurgensen $130,000 over a five-year period.

They suggested Downs was unbelievable as a witness because he pocketed some of the money he collected for the sheriff.

They characterized as a drunk William "Willie" Szarmach, a Lake Station towing owner who pleaded guilty to paying the sheriff kickbacks and who testified as government witness.

Benson answer was to replay for jurors the video tapes.

An FBI video surveillance recording of: Buncich's second-in-command Timothy Downs delivering $7,500 July 15, 2015, to Buncich in the sheriff's office.

An FBI video surveillance recording of Buncich leaning into Szarmach's tow truck and Jurgensen giving Buncich $2,500 April 22, 2016, in the parking lot outside of Delta Restaurant in Merrillville.

An FBI video surveillance recording of Jurgensen giving Buncich $2,500 on July 21, 2016, in the parking lot outside of Delta Restaurant in Merrillville.

FBI surveillance photographs of a meeting Sept. 2, between Jurgensen and Buncich in which Jurgensen gives the sheriff $7,500.

Benson said of the sheriff, "He never thought anyone would see that. If you didn't see it. You wouldn't believe it."

Benson praised Jurgensen's courage. "Think about the guts it took for Mr. Jurgensen to do this to himself and his business and family. What does he get for it? He's called a liar on the witness stand. Its hell to be a cooperator."

Defense lawyers argued the sheriff never delivered more lucrative towing to Jurgensen or Szarmach despite their political contributions.

Benson disagreed, but said it was illegal for the sheriff to take the money and make such promises regardless of the outcome. Even if the sheriff rips them off, its still a crime."










Portage mayor also facing charges on Lake County sheriff's conviction: 'It enforces my innocence'
Post Tribune
August 24, 2017
chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-snyder-response-buncich-st-0825-20170824-story.html

Portage Mayor James Snyder, indicted in November for allegedly soliciting money for towing contracts, said there are differences between his case and that of Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, who was convicted Thursday on public corruption charges.

In a prepared statement in response to Buncich's conviction on federal counts of wire fraud, honest services wire fraud and bribery, Snyder said there are distinct differences between the two cases and the prosecutor's arguments in the Buncich case in fact re-enforce Snyder's innocence.

"I don't think that the Sheriff Buncich conviction will affect the Mayor Snyder trial in any way," said Thomas Dogan, a Portage attorney who is part of Snyder's legal team.

"Any cash the mayor has ever had given to him has been properly represented in his campaign reports," Dogan said, adding Snyder had a professional treasurer to keep track of his campaign donations.

Snyder, like Buncich, entered a plea of not guilty after he was charged with John Cortina, of Kustom Auto Body in Portage, with violating a federal bribery statute.

Federal prosecutors said at the time that Snyder allegedly solicited money from Cortina, a local towing operator, and "Individual A" and gave them a towing contract for Portage.

Snyder also received a bribery indictment for allegedly accepting $13,000 in connection with a board of works contract and allegedly obstructed Internal Revenue Service laws.

In his statement, Snyder said that unlike Buncich, he has never taken cash and all of his campaign contributions are recorded accurately. Federal prosecutors showed video recordings of Buncich accepting cash during his trial, and also offered testimony that he received cash contributions that did not appear on his campaign finance reports.

"Holding an elected official accountable for the intent of a donor would indict all elected officials who are not independently wealthy and have to raise funds to get their message out," Snyder said.

In his statement, Snyder said Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson's arguments against Buncich prove his own defense and in no way complicate his case.

"It enforces my innocence," Snyder said. "In order to gain a conviction the prosecution would have to argue a complete double standard from their own arguments against the sheriff."

Dogan said Snyder is alluding to the fact that informants testified in the Buncich case that in their minds, they were paying bribes, "and in the mayor's case, that certainly would not support a conviction."

Snyder goes on to say in his statement that he has been "transparent, cooperative and honorable" in his conduct with the federal government and the city of Portage.

"My family, my staff and the city continue to prosper under this cloud and we are grateful to the outpouring of goodness we have received," he said.

Snyder and Cortina are scheduled to go on trial in January.










Portage mayor says his public corruption case is different than Sheriff Buncich
NWI Times
Aug 24, 2017

Portage Mayor James Snyder, who faces federal corruption and bribery charges, said there are distinct differences between his case and the one that led to Thursday's public corruption conviction against Lake County Sheriff John Buncich.

"I have never taken cash; all of contributions are recorded accurately and holding an elected official accountable for the intent of a donor would indict all elected officials who are not independently wealthy and have to raise funds to get their message out," Snyder said in a prepared statement requested by The Times.

"The prosecutor's own arguments against the sheriff prove my defense and in no way complicated my case; it enforces my innocence," he said.

"I have been transparent, cooperative and honorable in my conduct with the federal government," Snyder said. "My family, my staff and the city continue to prosper under this cloud, and we are grateful to the outpouring of goodness we have received."

Snyder's federal trial is set for Jan. 28 before U.S. District Court Judge Rudy Lozano.

He was indicted in November and has pleaded not guilty to felony counts of bribery, extortion and tax dodging, which carry long prison terms if he is convicted.

Snyder is accused in the bribery count of corruptly soliciting and receiving $12,000 from tow truck operator John Cortina in return for providing Cortina with a towing contract with the city. Cortina is charged with corruptly offering those checks to Snyder.

Snyder is also charged with corruptly soliciting and agreeing to accept a bank check in the amount of $13,000 in connection with Portage Board of Works contracts, a Portage Redevelopment Commission project and other consideration.

The third charge accuses Snyder of obstructing and impeding the Internal Revenue Service’s collection of personal taxes he owed and payroll taxes owed by his mortgage business, First Financial Trust Mortgage LLC.

08242017 - Sheriff John Buncich GUILTY! Next official up to bat is federally indicted Portage Mayor James Snyder

Sheriff John Buncich - who was federally indicted in November 2016 - has been found guilty at trial!


Meanwhile - in Portage LaLa Land - Federally indicted Portage Mayor James Snyder issued the following statement, following Buncich's guilty veredict: "There are distinct differences between the two cases, I have never taken cash..."





UPDATE: Sheriff John Buncich guilty
U.S. Attorney keeps perfect record on public corruption cases
NWI Times
August 24, 2017
nwitimes.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/update-sheriff-john-buncich-guilty-u-s-attorney-keeps-perfect/article_8f97728a-ee8c-5fde-bb22-1a3ac62fce39.html


HAMMOND — A U.S. District Court jury has found Lake County Sheriff John Buncich guilty on all six counts of wire fraud, honest services wire fraud and bribery.

The jury came back to the courtroom at 10:05 a.m. after deliberating for four hours Wednesday night and one hour this morning.

Buncich is free on bond until his sentencing on Dec. 6, when he faces lengthy prison time. He is also immediately removed from office.

Buncich displayed no emotion when his verdict was read in open court Thursday morning. Some of his supporters in the audience appeared shocked and grief stricken.

Bryan Truitt, one of Buncich's defense attorneys, said he didn't agree with the verdict and would be preparing an appeal. Buncich declined comment outside the courthouse in Hammond.

Larry Rogers, another of Buncich's attorneys, argued Wednesday night to the jury the government entrapped Buncich by giving him tens of thousands in cash uninvited and selectively editing dozens of hours of audio and video recordings to make Buncich look his worst.

The defense offered no video of its own.

Buncich took the daring step of answering the charges by testifying over three days of the trial. He insisted he was legitimately raising campaign contributions and didn't manipulate towing assignments to reward the largest donors.

But he couldn't explain away images of his grabbing and pocketing large wads of cash taken surreptitiously by the FBI and their undercover agent, Scott Jurgensen, a former Merrillville police man and towing firm owner.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson told jurors Wednesday night, "Does this look like a campaign contribution? He was taking money for doing his job. It's time to hold him responsible."

US ATTORNEY IMPROVES RECORD
Acting United States Attorney Clifford Johnson states that “The United States Attorney’s Office will continue to vigorously prosecute public officials who use their public office as means for personal enrichment. All citizens deserve public officials who work for the public interest and not their own interest.”

W. Jay Abbott, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Indianapolis Division, said "Public officials who abuse their positions for personal financial gain at the expense of the taxpayers will not be tolerated. The FBI and our federal, state, and local partners will continue to aggressively pursue those across Indiana who corrupt their office for self-serving motives.

Johnson added, "Also instrumental in these investigations are the honest and patriotic citizens who come forward and assist in uncovering the truth as was the case in Lake County."

John Dull, who has been county attorney for several decades, said Thursday the U.S. Attorney's office has won all of the public corruption cases it has prosecuted against elected public officials since the 1970s. He said most of them pleaded guilty rather than risk trial.

'SAD SAGA' ENDS
Mike Repay, president of the Lake County Board of Commissioners, issued a statement Thursday afternoon that said, "This is the end of a sad saga for the people of Lake County, who put their trust in John Buncich to enforce the law and remain accountable to the public."

"John Buncich violated the public trust with his actions. It will not only cost him his freedom, it adds another black mark against Lake County," Repay said.

Repay added the Board of Commissioners offer their full support to Lake County Chief of Police Matt Eaton who will supervise the sheriff's department until a caucus of Lake County Democratic precinct committeemen and vice committeemen elect a new sheriff next month.

The investigation of the sheriff began with a wide-ranging FBI investigation of local government towing contracts when they recruited Jurgensen who took up towing after he retired after 20 years as a Merrillville police officer.

He testified on the first day of trial he was frustrated that he couldn't get a contract from the department he had served for so long because he wouldn't pay bribes.

Jurgensen said he was one of about a dozen who had received towing contracts from the sheriff's department. He said he didn't have to pay to get on the list, but Downs, a longtime friend, approached him on behalf of the sheriff to buy campaign fundraising ticket.

STATEMENT FROM PORTAGE MAYOR JAMES SNYDER

Statement from Portage Mayor James Snyder, who has been indicted on federal bribery and tax charges. His trial is set to begin in January:

"There are distinct differences between the two cases, I have never taken cash; all of contributions are recorded accurately and holding an elected official accountable for the intent of a donor would indict all elected officials who are not independently wealthy and have to raise funds to get their message out.

The prosecutor's own arguments against the sheriff prove my defense and in no way complicated my case; it enforces my innocence.

I have been transparent, cooperative and honorable in my conduct with the federal government. My family, my staff and the City continue to prosper under this cloud and we are grateful to the outpouring of goodness we have received."

VIDEO EVIDENCE 
The FBI wired Jurgensen and gave him buy money to give to Downs. The later arrested Downs and forced his cooperation with their undercover investigation. Downs carried a video camera into the sheriff's office in 2015 to deliver campaign crash.

Jurgensen video taped two meetings with the sheriff in which cash changed hands.

Buncich's lawyers criticized FBI tactics for paying Jurgensen $130,000 over a five-year period.

They suggested Downs was unbelievable as a witness because he pocketed some of the money he collected for the sheriff.

They characterized as a drunk William "Willie" Szarmach, a Lake Station towing owner who pleaded guilty to paying the sheriff kickbacks and who testified as government witness.

Benson answer was to replay for jurors the video tapes.

An FBI video surveillance recording of: Buncich's second-in-command Timothy Downs delivering $7,500 July 15, 2015, to Buncich in the sheriff's office.

An FBI video surveillance recording of Buncich leaning into Szarmach's tow truck and Jurgensen giving Buncich $2,500 April 22, 2016, in the parking lot outside of Delta Restaurant in Merrillville.

An FBI video surveillance recording of Jurgensen giving Buncich $2,500 on July 21, 2016, in the parking lot outside of Delta Restaurant in Merrillville.

FBI surveillance photographs of a meeting Sept. 2, between Jurgensen and Buncich in which Jurgensen gives the sheriff $7,500.

Benson said of the sheriff, "He never thought anyone would see that. If you didn't see it. You wouldn't believe it."

Benson praised Jurgensen's courage. "Think about the guts it took for Mr. Jurgensen to do this to himself and his business and family. What does he get for it? He's called a liar on the witness stand. Its hell to be a cooperator."

Defense lawyers argued the sheriff never delivered more lucrative towing to Jurgensen or Szarmach despite their political contributions.

Benson disagreed, but said it was illegal for the sheriff to take the money and make such promises regardless of the outcome. Even if the sheriff rips them off, its still a crime."

Friday, August 11, 2017

Looking for a hero like Officer Scott Jergenson, in Portage Indiana


"Evil men prosper because good men do nothing" 
[Officer Scott Jergenson: Federal trial of Sheriff John Buncich]


Retired Merrillville Indiana police officer Scott Jergenson was detrimental in the federal investigation and indictment of Lake County Sheriff John Buncich.

During Sheriff Buncich's trial, Jergenson was asked why he cooperated with the FBI investigation of  Buncich. Jergenson replied,  "(An agent) told me evil men prosper because good men do nothing".

So, with that powerful quote in mind, I am going to hope and pray that somewhere out there in the town of Portage Indiana, that someone as honest and good as Officer Scott Jergenson exists - and that person will finally break the silence about the unlawful police entry into my home and the resulting deaths of Abbi and Bailey, because I dared to report the corruption in Porter County.










Lake County Sheriff Buncich not original focus of bribery investigation, feds say
Chicago Tribune
August 11, 2017
chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-buncich-trial-investigation-0813-20170812-story.html
A multi-year investigation culminated last November when FBI agents raided the office and home of Sheriff John Buncich, but Lake County's top cop wasn't the initial target when towing first piqued federal investigators' interest, according to courtroom testimony.

Federal authorities sought information on an alleged pay-to-play scheme, starting in 2012, but testimony presented in federal court this past week revealed Buncich was an unintentional target after investigators chased other leads.

FBI Special Agent Nathan Holbrook testified Tuesday that an investigation into the potential for corruption within municipal towing operations started when talking with Scott Jurgensen, owner of Samson's Towing in Merrillville.

The FBI went to Jurgensen's tow yard in 2012 to find out who picked up an impounded truck in an unrelated case, Holbrook testified. An agent asked why Jurgensen didn't do more towing since he previously worked for Merrillville police.

Jurgensen told FBI agents his business suffered because he refused to bribe municipal officials to get towing territory.

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

The sheriff's public corruption trial began Monday in Hammond's federal court over allegations that Buncich accepted thousands of dollars in bribes for his campaign as part of an illegal towing scheme. The Lake County towing ordinance left sole discretion to the sheriff as to what companies got the contracts — a power federal prosecutors say was used to solicit bribes.

While Buncich has maintained his innocence, his two co-defendants, Timothy Downs, former Lake County chief of police, and William "Willie" Szarmach, owner of CSA Towing in Lake Station, pleaded guilty.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson presented the government's case in the first week of Buncich's trial, calling Downs and Szarmach to the stand and playing audio and video recordings made by informants going back to 2014.

Leading up to that first encounter in 2012, the FBI had not had done any investigations into municipal towing, Holbrook said, but the FBI asked if Jurgensen would wear a wire and cooperate in an investigation.

"I thought about it for a few days," Jurgensen testified, saying he was worried about his business and safety of his family.

Benson asked Jurgensen in court what convinced him to cooperate.

"(An agent) told me evil men prosper because good men do nothing," Jurgensen said.

The investigation began looking at a Merrillville official reportedly soliciting bribes, before looking at alleged bribes to a Schererville official. Neither were charged, federal court records show.

It was then, Holbrook said, that the investigation turned to Lake County.

Downs first approached Jurgensen, a longtime friend, in 2013, Holbrook said, and wanted to collect money for Buncich's campaign. Jurgensen said he thought the contributions could help him with getting more towing business.

In the early meetings in 2014, Jurgensen and Downs met at area restaurants, with Jurgensen giving Downs thousands of dollars in checks made out to Buncich's Boosters, the sheriff's political campaign, and the Lake County Central Democratic Committee, of which Buncich was chairman, Benson said.

Defense attorney Bryan Truitt asked Holbrook on Thursday if the FBI ever saw any red flags that Downs kept the money for himself.

"No," Holbrook said.

As the meetings continued every couple of months, Jurgensen and Szarmach gave Downs thousands of dollars in checks along with hundreds of dollars in cash, according to exhibits Benson presented in court.

On June 3, 2015, FBI agents staked out at a meeting between Szarmach, Jurgensen, Downs and another sheriff's department employee, who was not charged in the case.

By that time, the FBI was trying to decide whether to approach Downs to cooperate, Holbrook said, but if he didn't agree, that could blow the undercover investigation.

"It was a risk," Holbrook said, during cross examination Friday. Holbrook said the more people who knew about the investigation, the riskier it became.

After the meeting, the FBI stopped Downs in his sheriff's department-issued car. Agents took Downs back to the FBI's Merrillville office, and Downs agreed to wear a wire, Holbrook said.

Downs started recording his trips to collect thousands of dollars from Szarmach and another Lake County tow operator not charged in the case, Holbrook said.

"I will get this over to the sheriff," Downs said in the recording of Szarmach.

On July 15, 2015, Downs filmed himself walking into the sheriff's department and the sheriff's office, handing Buncich $7,500 in cash, which the sheriff took and put in his desk drawer, Benson said.

By 2016, Jurgensen started meeting with Buncich directly, according to prosecutors. At an April 2016 meeting between the sheriff, Jurgensen and Szarmach at a Merrillville restaurant Buncich accepted thousands of dollars from the tow operators before going inside to eat, Benson said.

The meetings continued in 2016 until the FBI raid at the Lake County Government Center in November and the three were indicted, prosecutors said.

When questioning the government's witnesses, the defense argued that Buncich and Downs did not directly say that if the towers didn't pay money, they would be kicked off the county's tow list.

"Did ( Buncich ) tell you give me X amount of dollars and you will tow for me?" asked Larry Rogers, Buncich's other defense attorney.

"No," Szarmach said.

"John Buncich never promised you anything, did he?" Rogers said.

"No," Szarmach said.

Benson asked Szarmach, "Did (Buncich) ever say Willie, you can't be doing this?"

"No," Szarmach said.

Buncich's trial resumes Monday for its second week. The defense is expected to begin presenting evidence early in the week.