Hammond councilman agrees to plead guilty plea in federal court

2013-04-18T20:35:00Z 2013-08-01T19:12:19Z Hammond councilman agrees to plead guilty plea in federal courtJim Masters Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
April 18, 2013 8:35 pm  • 

HAMMOND | Hammond City Councilman Al Salinas reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors Thursday involving bribery and tax charges.

Under the plea deal, Salinas admitted to one count of steering city tree-trimming work to Dave’s Tree Service in exchange for cash payments from the business’s owner, David Johnson, of Munster. Johnson pleaded guilty in October to a federal charge of paying more than $10,000 in bribes to Salinas to receive city work that was funded through discretionary casino gaming money.

Johnson’s plea required him to cooperate with the investigation into his dealings with Salinas in exchange for a reduced sentence. Johnson’s sentencing hearing is set for May 8 before Chief Judge Philip Simon.

Salinas, 52, authorized at least $310,000 in contracts to Dave's Tree Service from 2009 to 2011, according to court records. Dave’s Tree Service made 11 payments to Salinas during that period, in amounts ranging from $500 to $1,500, to obtain the work.

Salinas, who was charged with four counts of willful failure to file tax returns from 2006 to 2009, will plead guilty to one count, according to the plea agreement. He had initially pleaded not guilty to both the bribery and tax charges.

The bribery charge carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a $250,000 fine, according to the plea agreement. The tax charge carries up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. In addition, Salinas must pay $20,574 in restitution to the IRS and forfeit $10,500 to the federal government.

When reached by The Times on Thursday, Salinas said he didn't know the plea agreement was going to be filed that day and declined to comment further.

In January, the Hammond City Council voted 8-0, with Salinas absent, to give spending control of casino money allocated to the Second District, which Salinas represents, to the three-member Council Finance Committee.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. had fired Salinas from his position as a supervisor in the Hammond Streets and Sanitation Department for “conduct unbecoming of a city employee.”

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