Capp salutes IRS for latest round of indictments
By Teresa Auch Schultz, Christin Nance Lazerus and Carole Carlson Post-Tribune staff reporters October 4, 2012 7:00PM
Updated: November 6, 2012 6:34AM
As news of more public corruption in Lake County broke Thursday, local officials expressed concern and the need to continue fighting back against illegal actions by politicians.
U.S. Attorney David Capp said during a news conference Thursday that the indictments came from his office’s “very active” task force investigating public corruption. Although Capp couldn’t explain why public officials in Lake County continue to violate the law despite the dozens of past convictions, he said his office will continue to pursue these cases.
He gave credit to the FBI, the IRS and the Indiana State Police for helping investigate the cases, saying most of the indictments came from the hard work of the IRS.
Rich Weber, chief of the IRS Criminal Investigation unit, said public corruption is a large focus for the IRS and public officials who do not file or file false tax returns “will simply not be tolerated.”
Weber said the IRS does not focus on Northwest Indiana specifically but will investigate tax fraud anywhere.
“Unexplained wealth has always been the Achilles’ heel of those who criminally violate their positions of trust,” Weber said. “ ... They are faced with a huge dilemma — enjoying the fruits of their crime without being detected by the IRS. Their efforts seem futile.”
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she was stunned at the indictment against Common Council member Marilyn Krusas. “I’m sorry to hear about it. I wish Marilyn the best. One of the things I’ve learned as an attorney is you’re innocent until proven guilty.”
Gary Common Council President Kyle Allen Sr. said the news took him off-guard but that Krusas is innocent until proven guilty.
“It’s unfortunate, and I hate to see it happen,” Allen said. “I was surprised.”
Merrillville Town Council President Shawn Pettit said the town will aggressively seek restitution from former Town Court clerk Virlissa Crenshaw like it did with former bookkeeper Rosemary Barath, who also stole money from the town.
“We want to recoup as much as we can as quickly as we can,” said Pettit. “If there’s a reverse mortgage, PERF (Public Employee Retirement Fund), whatever, we’ll go after it. (Clerk-Treasurer) Gene (Guernsey) won’t let that money go.”
The bulk of the money Barath took was reimbursed through a reverse mortgage on her house. The town also received her pension.
Pettit said Crenshaw’s actions were unfortunate for the town and its employees.
Pettit said he did not know if the town could seek repayment of the full $310,325 Crenshaw is believed to have stolen, or just the $176,763 named in the plea agreement signed by Crenshaw.
He applauded Town Court Judge Gina Jones for working diligently with the Indiana State Police on the matter and called Crenshaw’s actions unfortunate.
“You would have thought employees would’ve learned from Rosemary. It’s a shame one or two bad apples ruin it for everyone else,” Pettit said, adding most town employees are hard-working and honest.
Jones, who initiated the investigation when she noticed discrepancies, would not comment on the indictment on Thursday.
Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr. said the indictment of City Councilman Alfonso Salinas was not surprising considering federal investigators interviewed city employees, including the mayor.
“It’s not a big shock,” McDermott said. “It’s sad since I know Al on a personal level; he’s a nice man with a nice family. But if it’s true, he let the city down.”
McDermott said the city had done business with Munster businessman David Johnson for years but that relationship is “completely severed now.”
McDermott said East Chicago City Council member Juda Parks pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, so he would not lose his elected office.
“It wouldn’t be my right to encourage him to leave,” said McDermott, who is the chairman of the Lake County Democratic Party. “From what I understand, failure to file (income taxes) is obviously not good, but it’s comparatively minor.”
Correspondents Michelle L. Quinn and Karen Caffarini contributed to this story.