NWI feds nab 6 in separate public corruption cases

2012-10-04T12:25:00Z 2014-01-09T13:52:03Z NWI feds nab 6 in separate public corruption casesBy Marc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com
October 04, 2012 12:25 pm  • 

HAMMOND | If Indiana's U.S. attorneys lag behind their nationwide colleagues in generating public corruption cases, as recently published federal statistics show, it wasn't apparent Thursday.

Hammond-based U.S. Attorney David Capp announced the indictments of five current or former Northwest Indiana public officials and one private contractor Thursday on charges of tax evasion among other charges.

The announcement came about a week after Indiana Legislative Insight, a newsletter that tracks public policy information, highlighted federal statistics showing Indiana's two U.S. attorneys have lagged behind the public corruption convictions garnered by federal prosecutors elsewhere in the nation.

Indictments announced Thursday by Capp were for:

* Alfonso Salinas, 52, a 2nd District councilman in Hammond, for allegedly accepting a $10,500 bribe from the owner of a tree trimming service after steering $310,000 in contracts to the service between 2009 and 2011. Salinas also is charged with four counts of willful failure to file tax returns from 2006 to 2009.

Federal authorities allege Salinas steered city tree cutting business funded through discretionary casino money to David Johnson, 56, of Munster, owner of Dave’s Tree Service. Johnson also was indicted for paying a bribe to a public official, according to federal court records.

* Juda Parks, 40, an East Chicago city councilman and police officer, charged with two counts of failure to file income tax returns for 2008 and 2009. Parks signed a plea agreement admitting guilt on all charges and has agreed to cooperate with the federal government on other unspecified cases, Capp said.

* Former East Chicago Public Library Director Manuel Montalvo, 38, for two counts of filing false tax returns for 2009 and 2010.

The indictment alleges Montalvo overstated unreimbursed business expenses and medical and dental expenses totaling more than $80,000 over those two years.

* Marilyn Krusas, 69, a Gary councilwoman since 2000, charged with one count of tax evasion. Federal authorities allege Krusas failed to file tax returns since 1991 and failed to pay taxes on a $232,680 inheritance she received in the 2009-10 tax year.

* Former Merrillville Town Court clerk Virlissa Crenshaw, 42, of East Chicago, charged with theft from local government and filing a false tax return in 2009.

Crenshaw, who already signed a plea agreement filed Thursday admitting her guilt, is alleged to have stolen cash bonds paid to the court, with a loss to the Town Court of about $176,763 and a tax loss to the federal government of $55,203, Capp said.

Capp said the Thursday indictments -- and several convictions of corrupt public officials in recent years -- show his office aggressively pursues such cases.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice statistics recently published in Indiana Legislative Insight, Indiana's two U.S. attorneys for the northern and southern districts won fewer public corruption convictions in 2011 than most of the other federal prosecutors in other states.

In 2011, only 28 of the 93 U.S. attorneys' offices in the country obtained fewer public corruption convictions than the Northern District of Indiana while nine other districts trailed the state's Southern District, according to Indiana Legislative Insight's Sept. 24 issue.

And in the past decade, only 56 of the other 92 U.S. attorneys' offices won fewer public corruption convictions of Indiana's combined districts.

"I never worry about stuff like that," Capp said of the recently published statistics. "I know we're vigorously and aggressively pursuing public corruption offenses here."

Capp also cited the recent convictions of former East Chicago Mayor George Pabey, former Calumet Township Trustee Dozier Allen and former Lake County Clerk Thomas Philpot as evidence his office takes allegations of public corruption seriously.

All the defendants named in the Thursday indictments were expected to have initial appearances Thursday in Hammond federal court, Capp said.

In response to the Crenshaw indictment, Merrillville Town Council President Shawn Pettit expressed satisfaction the alleged theft of Town Court bond money was being "brought to justice."

"Hopefully, we'll be able to recoup those funds in some way," Pettit said.

Of the Salinas indictment, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said federal investigators questioned him about Salinas four or five months ago and that other city employees were questioned as well.

“It's sad for Hammond. I'm sad for Al,” McDermott said. “But if what the feds are saying is true, I'm greatly disappointed in him as well. You can't do that stuff.”

In April, Salinas was terminated from his position with the Hammond Streets Department for what McDermott described as “conduct unbecoming of a city employee.”

Times staff writers Chas Reilly and Chelsea Schneider Kirk contributed to this article.

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