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HAMMOND — A Chicago construction worker testified Tuesday in federal court that he purchased hundreds of iPads and other new computer equipment from Monique Bowling, former administrator with Gary’s information technology department.

Bowling, 46, of Merrillville, is charged with stealing more than 1,000 tablet computers from the city of Gary, valued at more than $1.3 million. In November 2016, she pleaded not guilty to federal theft charges. Her trial before U.S. District Court Judge Philip P. Simon began Monday with jury selection and evidence presented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Toi Houston and Gary Bell.

Bell called Bobby Peak, 57, as a prosecution witness. Peak said he answered one of Bowling’s ads in the Chicago Sun-Times to breed cane corso dogs, an Italian mastiff. He testified that he went to Bowling’s Merrillville home with his female cane corso and agreed on a $500 stud fee.

Later Peak said Bowling contacted him by phone “to see was I interested in some (computer) tablets. She came to my job at 41st and Lake Park Crescent in South Chicago.”

When she arrived, Peak said, Bowling opened the trunk of her car where he saw Apple computers. He testified that he took all the tablets and computers and paid Bowling $500 to $600 each in cash. He, in turn, sold the computers to “friends and co-workers” for the same cash price, Peak said.

Over the next few years, Peak said he met Bowling “quite a few times, over nine or 10 times,” in Lansing and in gas stations and parking lots near her place of employment. Peak also testified that the two exchanged text messages in which he messaged, “I can get rid of all the units.”

Peak said the last order for computers he placed with Bowling totaled $8,000, and that he went to her Merrillville house.

“She was whispering. She didn’t want her family to know about it. She said the computers were inside,” Peak said.

Bell asked Peak to identify a small box that included the Gary address of the information technology office as well as Bowling’s name. Peak testified that Bowling gave him the iPads and Apple Mac computers “sometimes in that exact box.”

That’s the same box that Peak turned over to FBI Agent Brian Keleher in 2017, the witness testified.

During his questioning Bell confirmed that on March 10, 2015, Peak was arrested outside the Markham, Illinois, courthouse and charged with felony possession of ammunition shortly after placing an order with Bowling. Peak verified that he pleaded guilty to that charge and was sentenced to 18 months probation.

Bowling’s defense attorney, Jeff Schlesinger, also questioned Peak about that arrest, which resulted in the witness vigorously stating, “I didn’t make a deal with the police.” Simon had to admonish Peak several times not to talk over Schlesinger’s questions.

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