New count may indicate cooperation by Co-Defendant William “Willie” Szarmach
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April 21, 2017-The United States Attorney has added an additional count of bribery to the indictment of Lake County Sheriff and former Democratic Party Chair John Buncich. According to court documents, the 6 count indictment was amended today to include a seventh count of Federal Program Bribery. The indictment alleges three bribes paid to Sheriff Buncich by co-defendant William Szarmach of CSA Towing as follows:
6/18/15 $2500 cash
4/22/16 $3500 cash
8/9/16 $1000 check and $2500 cash
According to the indictment, Szarmach and “individual A”, later identified as Scott Jurgensen, paid thousands in cash and checks to the Sheriff in order to receive additional towing. The most damning allegation involves the city of Gary where the Sheriff allegedly ordered officers to make additional traffic in order to increase revenue for tow truck operators. The additional charges may indicate that co-defendant Szarmach is cooperating with federal officials. Lake County Police Chief Tim Downs has already entered a plea of guilty and is believed to be cooperating with federal authorities.
The additional charge comes a little over a week after Sheriff Buncich issued a statement proclaiming his innocence to the media. In that letter Sheriff Buncich stated “I assure you that I am absolutely innocent. I assure you that the workings of the Lake County Sheriff in all its capacities will remain ongoing in perfect working order. I look forward to my trial and the vindication that will come from it.”
Sheriff Buncich was replaced as Lake County Democratic Chair during the party’s March election. Buncich cast the tie-breaking vote to select Attorney Jim Wieser as party chair over Lake County Commissioner Mike Repay after a vote miraculously ended in a 305-305 deadlock.
All criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law. A criminal charge is not evidence of guilt.