A grand jury returned a five-count indictment against Lake County Coroner Thomas Philpot, alleging mail fraud and theft from a federally funded program, U.S. Attorney David Capp announced Thursday.
Philpot, 54, of Highland, is accused of taking more than $24,000 in unauthorized incentive payments from the state of Indiana's IV-D child support program, which receives federal funding. The acts allegedly took place over a five-year span starting in 2004, during Philpot's tenure as Lake County clerk.
"A public office is not a vehicle to get rich or to support your salary," Capp said.
Philpot could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., also the county Democratic Party chairman, said he knew Philpot and his family, and he was "shocked and sad" at the news.
"I talked to him about a week ago, and I don't think he was anticipating this," McDermott said. "Everybody gets their day in court, and I wish him the best."
According to the U.S. attorney's office, Philpot was required to collect money under the child support program, and that part of the program allowed for clerk's office employees to get financial incentives if certain goals were met in collecting those child support payments.
But as an elected official, Philpot could not take any incentive payments without the Lake County Council's authorization -- and the council never offered it.
Counts one, two and three of the indictment allege mail fraud in sending in the Title IV-D reimbursement claim forms. Counts four and five allege he stole at least $5,000 from Lake County.
During Philpot's run for county coroner, Capp said Philpot refunded the tens of thousands of dollars to the county. But Capp said his office will continue to pursue charges against anyone -- including public officials -- who break the law and violate residents' trust.
Acting FBI Special Agent in Charge Danny Barkley said the agency is "relentlessly" investigating officials who exploit their positions for personal gain.
"The American people continue to be outraged by public officials enriching themselves at the public's expense," Barkley said. "Corrupt officials should know that the FBI and its partner agencies will continue to pursue them."