EAST CHICAGO | The marina dockmaster of East Chicago is the latest municipal employee to be painted by federal prosecutors into a mosaic of alleged crimes and corruption dating back several decades.
Richard Reyes, who remained employed last week as the East Chicago Marina dockmaster, was named earlier this month as one of 23 defendants in a sweeping gang indictment, Hammond federal court records and city officials confirmed.
Federal prosecutors allege in the case the Imperial Gangsters street gang carried out murders and other organized crimes in the furtherance of its drug trade.
Specifically, Reyes is charged in Hammond federal court with racketeering, conspiracy to deal cocaine and marijuana, murder in the aid of racketeering activity and murder resulting from the use and carrying of a firearm.
Reyes, who is being held without bond by the U.S. Marshals and tentatively is scheduled to face trial next year, joins a long list of East Chicago civil servants named in organized crime or corruption cases.
Reyes' Chicago-based attorney Jack Friedlander told The Times his client is innocent and he intends to defend Reyes "vigorously against false accusations."
But historically, East Chicago city servants accused by federal authorities of illegal activity have a poor rate of acquittal.
Holdover from corrupt era
Reyes, who earns $31,368.22 per year as dockmaster, is a holdover employee from Mayor George Pabey's administration, having been hired in May 2005, city records show.
In the prior year, Pabey had defeated former Mayor Robert Pastrick. Pastrick's administration ultimately lost a federal civil racketeering lawsuit brought by the Indiana attorney general.
Though Pastrick never faced criminal charges, a group of three city councilmen, a city controller, a parks superintendent and a city engineer were convicted of federal crimes in the scheme. The group, who collectively became known as the Sidewalk Six, was found guilty of perpetuating a scheme to curry votes by providing free concrete work for city residents.
Pabey's victory came with a hope among the city's electorate that reform of corrupt practices would follow. But Pabey, who once served as Pastrick's police chief, is now serving a five-year federal prison sentence following his 2010 conviction for stealing city resources and putting them into home improvement projects in his home in Gary's Miller neighborhood.
Also convicted with Pabey was former East Chicago engineering supervisor Jose Camacho, who in 2011 was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for conspiring with Pabey to perform work on Pabey's house on city time and with municipal resources.
If viewed as a timeline of alleged corruption or crimes, Pastrick and Pabey would be two of the larger dots in a series of East Chicago civil servants caught up in the federal justice system over the past several decades.
But many of the East Chicago municipal employees indicted over the years have been farther down the pecking order, and several of them have worn a badge.
Crime with a police shield
The late 1980s and early '90s marked an era of drug use and dealing in the East Chicago Police Department.
In the late 1980s, police officers Donald Miller, Paul Muryasz and Thomas Campbell all pleaded guilty to dealing small amounts of cocaine to fellow officers.
Also in the mid-1980s, seven police officers reportedly failed a drug-screening urine test, with cocaine being detected in one officer and marijuana in six others.
The department allowed all officers to take a retest, and all seven then tested clean. But tempers flared in the department ranks, with some officers claiming the re-tested policemen had received preferential treatment.
The police drug scandals did not end with the new millennium.
In 2005, East Chicago patrol officer Eligah Johnson was charged by federal prosecutors with buying and selling drugs while on duty and in uniform.
Johnson pleaded guilty to charges of dealing cocaine and a federal weapons-related charge in February 2006, according to court records.
And Johnson's alleged supplier, East Chicago building inspector Veta Tyner, also pleaded guilty that same year to cocaine distribution, court records show.
Being convicted of federal crimes doesn't always keep city employees from securing future employment with the municipality.
In July 1988, police Sgt. Ronald W. Jackson was convicted of five federal felony drug charges, one for possessing cocaine with intent to sell it and four for using a telephone to arrange a drug transaction.
Federal authorities alleged Jackson moonlighted as a bodyguard for a region drug kingpin.
Jackson was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison.
Despite his legal troubles, Jackson eventually was rehired by the city -- this time to work in the sewer department. East Chicago officials did not respond to Times requests this week seeking confirmation on whether Jackson remained an employee of the city.