Two officials in northwest Indiana have been named in separate public corruption indictments. Lake County Sheriff John Buncich is accused of receiving illegal money related to towing contracts, while Portage Mayor James Snyder is facing charges of bribery and obstruction.
U.S. Attorney David Capp says the first indictment alleges Buncich and his chief deputy, Timothy Downs collected payments from William Szarmach, owner of CSA Towing in Lake Station, and a fourth, unnamed individual in exchange for Buncich awarding towing business in Lake County and the city of Gary for ordinance violations. Buncich allegedly received more than $30,000 in cash and checks.
The second indictment says Snyder allegedly received two payments, totaling $12,000, from John Cortina, owner of Kustom Auto Body in Portage, in exchange for a city towing contract. Cortina is also facing a bribery charge. Snyder faces a second bribery charge after allegedly accepting a $13,000 check in connection with Portage Board of Works contracts, a Portage Redevelopment Commission project and other considerations, according to Capp’s office.
Capp says the indictment also alleges that, between January 2010 and April 2013, Snyder attempted to "obstruct and impede the IRS’s collection of personal taxes he owed and payroll taxes owed by his mortgage business, First Financial Trust Mortgage, LLC." Snyder allegedly diverted funds away from the business to a sole proprietorship and failed to disclose that information.
"These investigations are not over," said Capp. "Our public corruption team will continue its work, particularly into the towing contracts in both Lake and Porter counties."
Capp’s office is encouraging anyone with information related to these cases to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation.