HAMMOND | U.S. District Judge James Moody contended money and greed drove two former Lake County Sheriff's Department officers to use their positions on the department to buy restricted machine guns and laser sights in sentencing the men Thursday.
Moody sentenced Ronald Slusser, 49, of Crown Point, to nearly six years in prison on public corruption charges relating to the purchase of the equipment – meant solely for the use of law enforcement or military officials – for the purpose of selling the barrels of the guns and sights online for profit.
Slusser also was sentenced on an additional money laundering charge and for making a false statement on a tax return.
Shortly after Slusser's hearing, his former colleague on the force, Joseph Kumstar, 42, of Crown Point, was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison for his role in the scheme and for making a false statement on a tax return.
Moody said there was “almost nothing as bad” as breaking the public trust as a law enforcement officer in sentencing Slusser.
Slusser spoke briefly at the hearing, apologizing to the court, his family and the citizens of Lake County. In a letter to the court, Slusser recounted his work on the sheriff's department, writing “the one thing, I ever wanted to do, since I was a kid, was to be a police officer and be a member of a SWAT Team.”
Kumstar's attorney, Matthew Fech, said his client sat down and cooperated with federal agents beginning the night the search warrant was executed and admitted it was difficult to see the former police officer, who he's known personally and professionally, in court for sentencing.
Moody said the reason Kumstar was sitting in court was for “greed” and that the former officer had sacrificed his whole career.
Kumstar, in addressing the court, said he took full responsibility for the events that occurred.
“This day is the start for me to help me put my life back together,” Kumstar said.
The men face one year of supervised release following their prison terms and were ordered to voluntarily report to serve their sentences in September.
Slusser and Kumstar were indicted, along with a third former Lake County sheriff's officer, in 2011 in connection with the scheme that took place between September 2008 and January 2010, court records show.
The third officer, Edward Kabella, also of Crown Point, was sentenced in January to two years in prison for his role, which his attorney said was minor.
Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, who attended the sentencing hearings in Hammond federal court Thursday, said it was a sad day for the sheriff's department.
“They betrayed the badge – that's all it is,” Buncich said.