Like that hasn't been tried before - unsuccessfully - eh...
Money was loan, Spann co-defendant told FBI
January 12, 1988
Rudy Byron, who goes on trial with former Lake County Commissioner Atterson Spann next week, told the FBI the money he was paid by a janitorial firm was to be considered a loan.
FBI summaries of its 1986 and 1987 conversations with Byron were filed in U.S. District Court here Friday.
Byron, who worked as a consultant for General Maintenance Co. of Highland, and PBM (Professional Building Maintenance) Inc. of Gary, is charged with extorting money from the janitorial firms and filing false tax returns for 1983 through 1985. Spann faces the same charges and an additional charge of racketeering. The two firms had contracts with county government.
Byron worked for the Lake County Commissioners as a building inspector while he was on the General Maintenance payroll.
Gary attorney Hamilton Carmouche, who represents Byron, is seeking to have Byron's statements to the FBI suppressed, alleging his client wasn't advised of his rights or that he was a target of investigation.
In its written response, the U.S. attorney's office said the government complied with federal law in its dealings with Byron.
In the summary, Byron told the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service that Larry Crowel, one of the owners of General Maintenance, told him the money he received from General Maintenance should be considered a loan.
Byron, 50, of Gary, said there were no discussions as to when the loans were to be repaid.
Crowel is expected to be one of three key government witnesses against Byron and Spann. The others are former County Commissioner and Sheriff Rudy Bartolomei, who is an unindicted co-conspirator, and Johnny Garmon, vice president of PBM.
Byron, who worked for General Maintenance from 1983 to 1985, said he made one $350 payment back to the company during his three years there.
Byron told the agents Crowel told him later that he was unaware Byron had made the loan payment. Byron said he was paid about $18,000 during the period he worked for Crowel.
The summaries indicate that Byron said he was paid by both cash and check. Byron said he never received a W-2 Form, upon which wages are listed, from Crowel.
Byron said, however, that in March 1986 he received a Form 1099, upon which supplemental income is listed, from Crowel, who told him it represented the commissions General Maintenance had paid him in 1985. Byron said Crowel couldn't explain why he hadn't received a Form 1099 for 1983 and 1984.
Spann is accused of extorting $30,000 from the two janitorial firms that had contracts with the County Commissioners. The money allegedly received by Byron is not spelled out in the indictment.
Byron said Crowel hired him away from PBM because Crowel wanted him to get the contract with Lake County government.
Byron, according to the summary, told Crowel he had a lot of experience and knew a lot of people and could be helpful in getting the contract with the county.
Byron added that he accepted cash from Crowel for political fund-raising tickets.
Byron filed amended tax returns for 1983 and 1984 after he was contacted in mid-1986 by federal agents, the summaries state.
Spann and Byron have been friends for 40 years and frequently traveled together to Las Vegas and to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, the summaries explain.
Spann admits accepting bribes
January 20, 1988
Thirty minutes before he was to go on trial here Tuesday, former Lake County Commissioner Atterson Spann pleaded guilty to racketeering in connection with accepting bribes from two janitorial firms.
Also pleading guilty at the last moment was Rudy Byron Sr., Spann's longtime associate and co-defendant. Byron pleaded guilty to three counts of filing a false tax return.
"We were notified by defense counsel Mr. (J. Michael) Katz at 12:30 p.m. that his client wanted to plead guilty to Count 1," said U.S. Attorney James G. Richmond. Katz represents Spann.
U.S. District Judge James T. Moody accepted the guilty pleas and will sentence both men on March 25.
Spann, 49, of East Chicago, faces up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $25,000 and forfeiture of $29,615 he admitted accepting from the janitorial firms.
Byron, 51, of Gary, faces up to nine years in prison, a fine of $505,000 and paying taxes on the income he failed to report.
Of the government's decision to drop five other counts against Spann, Richmond said, "The interest of justice would not be served by going to trial on the other counts."
Katz, who said the government didn't try to strike a plea agreement Tuesday, added, "The action today was appropriate under the circumstances."
Both Richmond and Katz said there were no negotiations about a plea agreement Tuesday.
"We don't enter into plea agreements on public corruption cases without cooperation," said Richmond.
Spann faces two more years in prison than he would have under a plea agreement proposed by the government last fall but rejected by Spann. Under that proposal, Spann would have pleaded guilty to three counts and faced up to 18 years' incarceration.
The proposed plea, however, would also have required Spann to cooperate with the government in its Operation Lights Out investigation into corruption in Lake County government.
Sources said Spann probably would have entered the federal witness protection program if he had decided to tell the government what he knows about corruption in the county.
Although he admitted his guilt, Spann said he didn't solicit the money in exchange for cleaning contracts at the Lake County Government Center.
"I accepted the money with the intent of them having the contract," Spann said in reference to General Maintenance Co. of Highland and PBM (Professional Building Maintenance) Inc. of Gary. "I didn't solicit. They gave me the money and I accepted."
Spann disagreed with Assistant U.S. Attorney David Capp's contention that Spann inflated the janitorial contracts to allow the bidders to recover the money they paid in kickbacks.
Byron pleaded guilty to failing to report $63,199 in income he received from General Maintenance and Kleen Maintenance Inc. between 1983 and 1985. Byron owned Kleen Maintenance.
The pleas preclude the need for a trial that would have included the testimony of former Lake County Sheriff and Commissioner Rudy Bartolomei.
It is Bartolomei's cooperation that launched the Lights Out investigation. Bartolomei entered the federal witness protection program shortly after being sentenced on an extortion conviction.
Spann gets 20 years for taking bribes
March 25, 1988
U.S. District Court Judge James T. Moody sentenced former Lake County Commissioner Atterson Spann to 20 years in prison Thursday - the maximum he could have received after pleading guilty to accepting bribes.
Because he pleaded guilty to racketeering, Spann is expected to serve as much as two-thirds of the sentence. Moody also fined Spann $25,000 and ordered him to forfeit $29,615 he received in kickbacks from two janitorial firms that had contracts to clean the Lake County Government Center in Crown Point.
It is the stiffest sentence in a public corruption case since former Lake County Court bailiff John Marine was given a 20-year term by Moody in 1985.
Moody also sentenced Rudy Byron, Spann's lifelong friend and accomplice, to a maximum term of nine years in prison on three counts of filing false tax returns. Byron also was fined $15,000.
Moody, who has a reputation for tough sentences in public corruption cases, ordered the two into custody immediately. They were transferred to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, where they will be held until assignment to a prison.
Spann, 49, of East Chicago, waved to a couple of the 50 friends in attendance as he was whisked from the courtroom immediately after the hearing. Byron, 51, of Gary, hugged tearful relatives before being led away.
U.S. Attorney James G. Richmond said after the hearing that the government may not be finished with Spann.
"There are other investigations Mr. Spann may have knowledge of," Richmond said, adding that plans are indefinite on whether Spann will be called before a grand jury.
"I would like to humbly apologize to the court for my behavior," Spann said before sentencing. "There were many people who supported me over the years and I let them down. I hope my family at some point will forgive me."
Richmond had no comment on the sentence although he had called for a substantial period of incarceration.
Merrillville lawyer J. Michael Katz, Spann's attorney, said , "Today Ivan Boesky commenced serving a three-year sentence for defrauding people out of hundreds of millions of dollars. Today Atterson Spann commenced a 20-year sentence for taking $29,000."
Katz acknowledged Spann's wrongdoing but attempted to minimize it. He said Spann didn't solicit any money and blamed former Lake County sheriff and commissioner Rudy Bartolomei.
Bartolomei is in the federal witness protection program after pleading guilty to extortion. He would have been the government's key witness against Spann.
Katz said he has evidence that Bartolomei withdrew $550,000 from his accounts in Lake County financial institutions just before pleading guilty.
"Public corruption will continue until those who offer bribes realize they can't walk away scot-free," Katz said.
Richmond responded, "As long as there are public officials who take bribes and sell their offices, nothing will change."
Both Spann and Byron turned down plea agreements. Spann was offered an 18- year maximum prison term but would have had to cooperate with federal authorities in its Operation Lights Out investigation into corruption in county government.
Byron turned down a three-year maximum sentence that also required cooperation.
Spann advanced quickly to become one of the most powerful politicians in county government. He was selling men's clothing in an Indiana Harbor store when he went to work for East Chicago Mayor Robert A. Pastrick in the early 1970s. He was elected to the first of three terms as commissioner in 1974. He lost his bid for a fourth term in the 1986 Democratic primary.
Byron, who was Spann's campaign manager, worked for the commissioners and also owned Kleen Maintenance Co. Inc. Earlier this week Byron lost a suit against county commissioners alleging he was fired in January 1987 for political reasons.
Byron pleaded guilty to failing to report $63,199 in income he received from General Maintenance Co. of Highland and Kleen Maintenance between 1983 and 1985.
Spann took money from Johnny Garmon, vice president of Professional Building Maintenance Inc. of Gary, and from Larry Crowel, co-owner of General Maintenace, the government said. Garmon and Crowel are unindicted co- conspirators.