HAMMOND — Federal prosecutors argue former Calumet Township Trustee Mary Elgin and her son should be imprisoned for at least one year.

U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch's II argues in his sentencing recommendations, filed this week in U.S. District Court, that Elgin and Steven Hunter must be punished for violating public trust.

He recommends Elgin and Hunter should each serve between 12 month and 18 months in a federal prison in addition to paying restitution to the public – $21,311 for Elgin and $15,000 for Hunter.

Elgin was the Calumet Township trustee from 2003 until her defeat in 2014.

She ran the largest township office in Northwest Indiana and employed about 200 workers who distributed assistance to Gary's poorest residents.

The FBI uncovered evidence that Elgin believed her township employees owed her political support, and she directed administrative staff to ensure employees bought political fundraising tickets and took part in campaign activities, like wearing her political T-shirts and marching in holiday parades.

A federal grand jury indicted Elgin and Hunter in December 2014.

Kirsch's office said the defendants shook down township employees through a series of political fundraisers in which employees were expected to either sell tickets to others or purchase them with their own money.

The government also argued the two defrauded the public by engaging in political activity on public time and Elgin, who told people she was a tax consultant, failed to file her 2013 federal tax return.

She and her son pleaded guilty in May 2017 under agreements in which they avoided the maximum penalty under law — 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Hunter is scheduled to be sentenced May 21 and Elgin on May 23.

Kirsch's memo states Elgin's acceptance of responsibility for her public corruption has earned her enough credit under federal sentencing guidelines to reduce her sentence.

It states Hunter would have been eligible for a sentence of less than 14 months if he hadn't violated the terms of his pre-trial release last year when he tested positive for drugs. He was detained for five months, but is now free on bond.

A U.S. District Court jury last month convicted Elgin's secretary, Ethel Shelton, for a role in the scheme, but acquitted Alex Wheeler, an administrator under Elgin, of all charges.


Lake County Reporter

Bill has reported in Lake County since 1972 after graduating from Indiana University. He has worked for The Times since 1997, covering the courts and local government during much of his tenure. Born and raised in New Albany, Ind., he is a native Hoosier.