HAMMOND — Former Porter County Sheriff Department Lt. Larry LaFlower has pleaded guilty to a federal count of wire fraud based on allegations of taking $187,699 from a Valparaiso Fraternal Order of Police lodge while serving as treasurer.
The plea took place Thursday before U.S. District Court Judge Philip Simon, according to one of his defense attorneys, Adam Tavitas.
LaFlower, who resigned from his police job in May, faces up to 20 years behind bars, but the U.S. attorney's office has agreed to recommend a prison term at the low end of the sentencing range, according to the plea agreement.
The 42-year-old has agreed to pay back the the entire amount taken from the FOP Ewalt Jahnz Lodge 165, according to the plea agreement.
Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 17 before Simon.
LaFlower, who remains out of custody, issued unauthorized checks and made unauthorized withdrawals from the FOP's bank accounts, according to court records. The offenses occurred between April 2013 and April 2018.
"I made material misrepresentations to the Executive Board of the FOP, including fabricating financial account statements, to conceal my criminal conduct," according to the plea agreement.
LaFlower, who served for a time as the Sheriff Department's public information officer, waived his right to appeal or otherwise contest his conviction.
The FOP lodge reportedly serves to improve working conditions for officers, and raises money for scholarships and other programs.
The FOP lodge maintained two checking accounts. LaFlower allegedly wrote approximately 31 checks from one of the accounts to himself without authorization and without approval from the FOP's executive board, according to court documents.
On April 2, 2018, LaFlower wrote a check for $1,500 from one of the accounts and deposited it in a personal account, which caused a wire transmission of funds that was routed through the Federal Bank in Atlanta.
The documents also alleged that about 85 times between the 2013 and 2018 dates, LaFlower made cash withdrawals from one of the accounts and had transferred over $150,000 from one FOP-owned account to another with the "intention of withdrawing those funds for personal use."
He was also accused of failing to file the FOP's federal tax returns.
"Public officials who abuse their positions for personal financial gain will not be tolerated. My office, with our law enforcement partners, will continue to pursue those who corrupt their office for self-serving motives," U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch has said.