CROWN POINT | A federal investigation into Lake County police may focus on improper Internet resale of machine gun and other restricted firearm components acquired under the department's name.
A source familiar with the investigation, who asked not to be named, said Sgt. Joseph Kumstar, who was assistant county police chief until January, bought the firearms and specialized gun scopes with private funds, but in the name of the department, and later offered the components for sale online.
Federal investigators are looking into whether that practice skirted restrictions on the Interstate sale and ownership of firearms and components outside of law-enforcement purposes.
Matthew Fech, Kumstar's attorney; Sheriff John Buncich; former Sheriff Roy Dominguez, who left office in December after eight years as county police department head; and Wayne Dixie, assistant special agent in charge of the field division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, declined to comment on the accusations.
Dixie said local police departments can acquire machine guns and other firearm components denied to many individuals under the National Firearms Act, if a department properly documents their use for law enforcement purposes only.
Sources close to the case said federal investigators are looking into whether Kumstar used county police letterhead and the federal firearms licenses of Officers Edward Kabella and Ronald Slusser to sell guns to collectors and licensed dealers and whether the sale proceeds were reported for tax purposes.
Lake County commissioners, who do almost all the purchasing for county government but haven't been involved in police weapon procurement, are calling on Buncich to make the department's gun-buying practices more transparent to public scrutiny.
A Times survey of county records couldn't identify who sells weapons and ammunition to the Sheriff's Department. Some Lake County gun dealers said this week county police gun-buying business is unfairly monopolized by dealers with political influence.
County Attorney John Dull said the problems predate Sheriff John Buncich, who has done nothing wrong but, he said, needs to make changes.
"Commissioners are going to request the sheriff follow the appropriate state laws as it relates to the purchase of guns and ammunition. Certain things have to go out to competitive bidding. The public should have a right to know everything we paid for. I can tell you he will do that," Dull said.
Buncich, who said last week he has been cooperating with federal authorities since shortly after taking office, stripped Kumstar, Capt. Marco Kuyachich, Lt. Michael Reilly and Officers Slusser, Kabella and Scott Shelhart of police powers last month after federal agents executed search warrants in Crown Point seeking documents and business records.
Ivan Bodensteiner, an attorney for Kuyachich, said Thursday that Kuyachich has been assured by federal agents that he is a witness, but not a suspect, in the case.
Michael Back, an attorney for Slusser, said Friday, "I know and like Ron, and my office is going to put all of its resources behind restoring his good name."