Courts
Jonathan Miano, The Times

HAMMOND — A disbarred local attorney was sentenced Tuesday to 24 months in prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the estate of a defunct supermarket chain.

Robert E. Stochel, 64, of Crown Point, was convicted in May, court records show. Sentenced Tuesday for mail fraud, Stochel must pay back $229,091.97 in restitution to Tip Top Supermarket Inc., according to court records.

Stochel was appointed by a court to serve as the receiver of the dissolved supermarket in 1999, according to court records. 

The attorney was required to pay the company's creditors and then return any remaining funds to the two brothers who owned the company, but Stochel instead used all the company's assets for his personal benefit, records state.

Stochel hid the thefts from the company's owners and the court until 2012, when he defied a judge's order to turn over receivership records to an independent accountant, according to state records.

Stochel was convicted after a three-day jury trial in May. 

“Attorneys are entrusted with a great deal of power and authority to act on behalf of and in the best interests of their clients,” U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch said in a news release. “Those who do not, but instead engage in criminal conduct, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Stochel was admitted to the state bar in 1978. He was disbarred by order of the Indiana Supreme Court in 2015.

The case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorneys Diane Berkowitz, Alexandra McTague and Maria Lerner.

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Public safety reporter

Lauren covers breaking news, crime and courts for The Times. She previously worked at The Herald-News in Joliet covering government, public policy, and the region’s heroin epidemic. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting.