Clerk-treasurer: Feds investigating Lake Station

2013-10-09T19:15:00Z 2013-11-15T14:41:06Z Clerk-treasurer: Feds investigating Lake StationDeborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223 nwitimes.com

LAKE STATION | The city continues to be part of an investigation launched by federal agents in late June, said Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Samuels.

The investigation involves agents from the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service, she said.

She said she has received 10 subpoenas asking for records or information about the city.

Neither of the agents who has come to her office has told Samuels the purpose of the investigation, but from their timing and initial information sought, she believes the trigger was $15,880 in city bond collections that turned up missing late last year.

Financial errors, including the missing money, were discovered in a routine annual State Board of Accounts audit of Lake Station, state office supervisor Charles Pride said.

The $15,880 in missing funds was found in a bag inside the car of Miranda Brakley, a former city employee.

Brakley is the stepdaughter of Mayor Keith Soderquist.

Once Brakley found the missing money, she turned it in to city officials, her attorney, Scott King, has said.

King said city employees had moved boxes into Brakley's car on her last day of employment and she had assumed they were her personal property.

"Even though she (Brakley) returned the money, when the FBI came in I assumed that is what triggered the investigation. It made sense," Samuels said.

In addition, many of the documents the agents were seeking centered around Brakley's former employment with the city court and the clerk's office, Samuels said.

Samuels said she also has received a subpoena to testify in a grand jury hearing June 20 in Hammond but was subsequently notified she did not have to appear.

"The subpoena is open-ended, so I may still be asked to testify," Samuels said.

It's her understanding that other city employees and officials have been required to testify or have been interviewed by the federal agents.

Although the initial probe centered on Brakley, the later part of the investigation has been more open-ended, seeking numerous documents, including City Council and Board of Works minutes and even information about the city's Food Bank, Samuels said.

"The initial subpoenas had to do with Miranda, but then later the mayor told me the investigation was about him," Samuels said.

Soderquist said he's aware of the investigation but declined to speculate on what agents are hoping to find or whether the probe is about him or his stepdaughter.

"Of course we're complying. Everything is going through the clerk-treasurer's office," Soderquist said.

Soderquist said he has not received any subpoenas from federal agents.

Neither Brakley nor King could be reached for comment Wednesday.

FBI agent Nathan Holbrook, who Samuels said was one of two men conducting the audit, declined to comment when reached.

IRS Agent Steve Martinez couldn't be reached for comment.

FBI Agent and spokesman Bob Ramsey said he is out of the country and not sure if the investigation is active or if it even exists. He said it's the policy of the FBI not to comment on active investigations.

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