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Fed prosecutor calls Buncich an 'icon of public corruption'

Fed prosecutor calls Buncich an 'icon of public corruption'

John Buncich

Former Sheriff John Buncich and a photograph of money a confidential government informant paid Buncich.

HAMMOND — A federal prosecutor argues former Lake County Sheriff John Buncich is "an icon of public corruption" who should remain in prison.

Buncich is scheduled to be resentenced Aug. 5 following a partially successful appeal of his 2017 bribery and fraud corruption that eliminated three of the six guilty verdicts against him.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson argues in a memorandum made public Tuesday that Buncich shouldn’t win a substantial reduction in his current 188-month prison term.

Benson said that sentence shouldn’t be reduced lower than 151 months to reflect the seriousness of Buncich’s crime and promote respect for the law.

Benson states in a sentencing memorandum to U.S. District Court Judge James Moody that Buncich’s systematic law breaking during his reign as Lake County’s top cop continued an “abysmal saga of corrupt politicians in Lake County.

“(His) conduct spans several years, involved other high-ranking Lake County public officials, and resulted in incredible damage and embarrassment to the Lake County Sheriff’s Department and the Lake County Democratic Party,” Benson said.

Former U.S. Attorney David Capp charged Buncich in 2016 with soliciting bribes from towing firms doing business with the Lake County Sheriff’s Department.

The following year, a federal court jury convicted Buncich of six felony counts of bribery and wire fraud on evidence that included hours of video and audio recordings and testimony of how the former sheriff’s political fundraising had become a solicitation of bribery to towing firms working for county police.

Buncich told jurors from the witness stand he didn’t do anything wrong.

Benson argues, “The audacity of his incredulously false statements is only a reflection of the immense hollowness of his character.”

Moody imposed a 188-month sentence Jan. 16, 2018 for the 74-year-old Buncich, who is currently housed in a U.S. Bureau of Prison medical center in Springfield, Missouri and is not scheduled for release for another 11 years.

Buncich appealed his conviction to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, arguing the convictions were tainted by inadmissible evidence.

That three-judge panel overturned three of Buncich’s guilty verdicts in 2019, but let the remaining three convictions stand.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused late last year to hear Buncich’s further appeals.

Benson argues Buncich’s criminal behavior continued after he was facing trial on bribery charges.

He said Buncich demanded Lake County Police Commander Matt Eaton use the police information database to dig up dirt on three of the government’s star witnesses against him.

Eaton refused to do so and had other county police officers deny Buncich access to the computer database to ensure no one else did so either.

Benson said Buncich, the highest ranking elected law enforcement official in Lake County, even had the audacity to be Facebook friends with fugitive criminal, Frank Kollintzas, a former East Chicago city councilman.

A federal jury in November 2004 convicted Kollintzas and three other East Chicago public officials of misappropriating millions of dollars in concrete they gave to residents in the form of free driveways, sidewalks and patios to ensure the city administration's 1999 reelection.

Kollintzas avoided a 136-month prison term by fleeing to Greece in February 2005. He has lived in exile there the last 15 years.

Recent arrests booked into Lake County Jail



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