Township trustee, two others indicted for alleged kickback scheme
A Vanderburgh County official and two others have been indicted in an alleged kickback scheme involving construction work, inflated prices and illegal payments, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana. Federal prosecutors charged Pigeon Township Trustee Mariama Wilson, township community relations coordinator William Payne, and local construction contractor Terrance Hardiman, following a months-long investigation into the township’s books.
The indictment alleges Wilson and Payne agreed to hire Hardiman and his business, Hardiman Construction LLC, to remodel a homeless shelter and develop a food pantry, in exchange for Hardiman agreeing to kick back a portion of the funds that he received from the Trustee’s Office to Wilson and Payne.
Zach Myers. U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, says the alleged partners deliberately inflated the cost of the projects, submitted invoices and pocketed the difference.
Myers says between February 11, 2020, and May 16, 2022, the Trustee’s Office paid Hardiman approximately $215,000 for the homeless shelter and food pantry projects. As a result of the scheme, Wilson and Payne each received approximately $19,000.
“Government officials who engage in corruption betray the public’s trust, for their personal gain,” said Myers. “Inflated invoices and kickbacks rob the taxpayers of their hard-earned money and damage the trust that citizens are entitled to have in their government.”
Wilson and Payne each face five counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The same charges are leveled against Hardiman, who also faces a count of money laundering.
Vanderburgh County Sheriff Noah Robinson called the alleged actions a “slap in the face to the community.”
“I’m proud that we have honest individuals willing to report corruption when they see it, knowing that silence in the face of misconduct is not an option,” said Robinson. “This corrupt behavior runs counter to the oath they took, and certainly not what was promised to this community.”
The Evansville Courier & Press reports police arrested all three defendants. They were arraigned in federal court, pleaded not guilty, and were released under pretrial monitoring.
If convicted, all three face up to 20 years in federal prison and up to 3 years of supervised release each, as well as a fine.