Lake County cops take steps toward return to active duty

2012-09-27T18:30:00Z 2012-09-28T12:50:03Z Lake County cops take steps toward return to active dutyBy Marisa Kwiatkowski marisa.kwiatkowski@nwi.com, (219) 662-5333 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | After a year and a half of forced leave, two Lake County police officers are taking steps toward returning to active duty.

Lt. Michael Reilly and Capt. Marco Kuyachich received letters earlier this month ordering them to report for physical exams to determine their fitness to return to active duty, according to letters dated Sept. 11.

John Bushemi, attorney for the Lake County Sheriff's Department, said it is customary to order the tests as a step in the process to return to active duty. He declined to say whether Reilly and Kuyachich would be returning to active duty after the examinations.

The two men have been on paid administrative leave since May 24, 2011, when Lake County Sheriff John Buncich stripped them and four others of police powers pending the outcome of a federal investigation.

Three of those officers -- Sgt. Joseph Kumstar and Officers Ronald Slusser and Edward Kabella -- were indicted in September 2011 on conspiracy and tax fraud charges, federal court records show.

The three men were accused of using their positions at the Sheriff's Department to buy machine guns and laser sights restricted for use by the military and law enforcement -- and selling the parts online for thousands of dollars in personal profits.

All three resigned from the department, pleaded guilty and await sentencing, federal court records show.

Lake County Sheriff's officers Scott Shelhart, Kuyachich and Reilly have not been charged with any crimes. Shelhart returned to work last October, but Buncich kept Kuyachich and Reilly on paid leave.

Their paid time off drew the ire of former county police merit board member Robert Malizzo, who called for Buncich either to reinstate them or bring evidence of wrongdoing.

Buncich directed all questions to Bushemi, who said he will not comment on why the physical exams are being ordered now. He referred The Times to the U.S. attorney's office for comment on the status of any federal investigation.

Mary Hatton, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office, could not be reached late Thursday for comment.

Attorney Tom Vanes said Reilly has submitted to a physical and is waiting on a hearing test.

"He'll do what he needs to do and what he's told to do," Vanes said.

Kuyachich's attorney, Ivan Bodensteiner, said he was not at liberty to comment.

Kuyachich previously threatened to sue the department to return to active duty and clear his name. He claimed, through his attorney, that he was a witness in the case, not a target of the investigation.

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