HAMMOND | Shackled hand and foot with a chain around his waist, Lake County Surveyor George Van Til pleaded not guilty Monday to federal public corruption charges.
Van Til faces six counts of wire fraud and two counts of obstruction of justice in Hammond federal court. Federal prosecutors claim he used county employees, equipment and facilities to further his political campaign.
After the hearing in U.S. District Court in Hammond, Van Til was freed Monday on a $20,000 unsecured bond agreement.
Van Til issued a written public statement denying the allegations through his attorney, Scott King.
"After winning 18 elections during more than 40 years in public service, I am now facing a fight for my reputation against allegations stemming from more than a year of relentless federal investigation using the government's unlimited resources," Van Til wrote.
"I am determined to fight these allegations with the single most powerful resource that I have available: the truth."
Van Til added that he has "always viewed politics as a mere means to the end of being a public servant."
Deputy Lake County Surveyor Gregory Sanchez told The Times that Van Til had returned to his Lake County government office Monday afternoon and was preparing for a Tuesday meeting in his office to discuss potential drainage issues of the proposed south county Illiana Expressway.
King, a former Gary mayor, declined further comment on his client's case beyond Van Til's written statement.
Van Til is the latest prominent Lake County government figure to seek legal representation from King.
In an unrelated case, King represents former Gary Councilwoman Marilyn Krusas, who agreed last month to plead guilty to federal tax evasion charges.
King also represented former East Chicago Mayor George Pabey, who is serving five years in federal prison for stealing public funds from East Chicago. Pabey was convicted of using the funds and city labor to remodel his home in Gary's Miller Beach neighborhood.
And King represented former Gary Mayor and Calumet Township Trustee Dozier Allen, who was sentenced in 2010 to 18 months in prison after being convicted of mail fraud. According to court records, Allen and two others took checks totaling about $143,000 from a contract linked to a federal welfare program administered by the trustee's office while Allen was at the helm.