Portage Mayor, Lake County Sheriff Indicted For Corruption

CHICAGO (CBS) — Portage Mayor James Snyder and Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, as well as several other northwest Indiana public officials have been indicted on public corruption charges in connection to towing companies in northwest Indiana.

In indictments announced Friday, federal prosecutors allege Buncich and his chief deputy Timothy Downs schemed to award towing business in Lake County and the city of Gary to CSA Towing in Lake Station, in exchange for bribes to Buncich.

The indictment alleges Buncich received more than $25,000 in cash and $7,000 in checks for directing towing business to CSA and another unnamed towing business. Downs allegedly acted as the bag man for Buncich.

Last week, the FBI raided Buncich’s home and office, but U.S. Atty. David Capp said the indictments were the result of a multi-year investigation that started when a towing company owner came forward with corruption allegations.

A second indictment accuses Snyder of accepting two checks totaling $12,000 from and Kustom Auto Body owner John Cortina and another towing company owner in exchange for a towing contract with the city of Portage. Snyder also allegedly accepted a check for $13,000 in connection to Portage Board of Works contracts.

“Today is a sad day for the citizens of northwest Indiana, and it is a particularly sad day for all of us in law enforcement,” Capp said.

The feds said the same towing company owner who came forward in Buncich’s case also was cooperating in the case against Snyder. Capp said the owner, identified in both indictments only as Individual A, has paid bribes, and then went to the FBI, starting the investigation.

“This individual voluntarily came forward and offered to work with us, and it’s because of his efforts that we have been able to get into the inner workings of this illegal scheme,” Capp said.

Prosecutors said the investigation does not end with the charges announced Friday, and Capp said there would be more indictments.

“To those others out there in law enforcement, or in elected positions, who have been engaging in conduct similar to that announced today, we are coming after you. Time is running short,” Capp said.

Sheriff John Buncich issuing this statement, “The administrative staff, led by Sheriff John Buncich, and the command staff continues to handle day to day operations. The Sheriff’s Department is continuing to run as normal.”

Read the indictments below:

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