CROWN POINT — A former Merrillville town councilman admitted Friday he took bribes from a federal police informant in exchange for a vehicle towing contract, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Thomas Goralczyk, 51, of Merrillville, was indicted Wednesday by a grand jury in Hammond of felony bribery. He admitted Friday he was guilty of the offense in a plea agreement with prosecutors.
A date for a plea hearing has not yet been scheduled, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Goralczyk, contacted at his home in Merrillville, declined to comment.
Merrillville Town Council President Richard Hardaway said his heart goes out to Goralczyk's family.
Hardaway said he worked with Goralczyk on the council for eight years, and he had believed the former councilman was beyond reproach.
"It's another tough day for the town of Merrillville," Hardaway said.
Goralczyk admitted in the plea agreement he accepted two vehicles from a witness cooperating with the FBI on the promise he would use his influence as a councilman to steer the town's towing contract to the informant's towing company.
The bribes were made between February 2013 and August 2014, the agreement states. He accepted a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee from the informant for $400, when he knew the vehicle's value exceeded $2,500.
He also accepted a 2008 Ford Focus, valued at more than $5,000, for which he paid nothing, the agreement states. He also was provided four camper tires and free storage for a personal motorcycle as part of the deal.
The former councilman attempted to hide the bribes by presenting false bills of sale to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles representing he paid $1,000 for the Jeep Cherokee, and $2,750 for the Ford Focus, the agreement states.
Goralczyk agrees to forfeit $7,500 before sentencing as part of the plea deal.
“Public officials, like Mr. Goralczyk, elected and entrusted to do the public's work, are required to do that work free from self-dealing and graft,” U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II said Friday in a statement. “This is not optional. The public demands and is, in fact, entitled to honest public servants.”
Goralczyk was first elected as a Merrillville town councilman in 2007 and took office in January 2008. He was re-elected in 2011 and began his second term as 4th Ward councilman in January 2012.
He served as president of the Town Council in 2011 and 2015.
He also held various other positions on the Merrillville Redevelopment Commission, Lake County Solid Waste Management Board and the governing board of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, according to the agreement.
The investigation into Goralczyk was first revealed in August at the trial of former Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, who was convicted of wire fraud and bribery for taking cash bribes to steer the county's towing work to favored companies.
Nathan Holbrook, an FBI special agent, testified Aug. 8 at trial the investigation into Buncich began initially with an investigation in 2012 into whether Scott Jurgensen, who was working undercover for the FBI, bribed Goralczyk to get towing work from the town.
Jurgensen, owner of Samson's Towing, had complained to the FBI special agent he couldn't get towing work because he refused to pay bribes.