November 17, 2017-When Sheriff John Buncich and his Assistant Timothy Downes were indicted in 2015, then US Attorney David Capp indicated that more charges would be forthcoming. Today US Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch has announced that former Merrillville Town Council President Tommy Goralczyk, age 51, has entered a plea of guilty to Accepting a Bribe in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 666(a)(1)(B). According to the plea agreement, the value of the bribes was in excess of $95,000 but less than $150,000. The value of the bribe(s) is spelled out in paragraph 7(c)(ii) of the Agreement (see full agreement below), but the agreement spells out only a small fraction of the alleged $95,000. According to a statement from US Attorney Kirsch:
“. . . Goralczyk identified that he accepted bribe payments from a Federal Bureau of Investigation “cooperating individual” in the form of two vehicles. He obtained a Jeep Grand Cherokee for $400 when he knew the value was in excess of $2500. In an attempt to cover up the bribe, he presented a false bill of sale to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles representing that he paid $1000 for the vehicle. In addition, Goralczyk accepted a 2008 Ford Focus with a value in excess of $5000. He paid nothing for this vehicle, but presented a false bill of sale to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles indicating that he paid $2750 for the vehicle. Goralczyk acknowledged that he accepted both the vehicles for his own personal gain, in exchange for his promise to engage in official conduct by using his influence and power as a Merrillville Town Councilman to obtain a Town of Merrillville towing contract for the FBI “cooperating individual’s” towing company.”
In addition to being President of the Merrillville Town Council in 2011 and 2015, Goralczyk was a full-time employee of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District according to records maintained by the Department of Local Government Finance. Goralczyk also served on the Executive Board of the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission and the Lake County Solid Waste Management Board according to the statement. He was first elected to the Town Council in 2007 and took office in 2008. He was re-elected in 2011 but lost his seat to Margaret Uzelac in a contested primary in 2015.
United States Attorney Kirsch said, “Public officials, like Mr. Goralczyk, elected and entrusted to do the public’s work, are required to do that work free from self-dealing and graft. This is not optional. The public demands and is, in fact, entitled to honest public servants. Mr. Goralczyk violated this trust for the purpose of enriching himself. This will not be tolerated at any level of government. Public corruption must be routed out where it exists. If you are in the community and are aware of an elected or appointed official engaging in illegal conduct, I encourage you to notify the FBI or US Attorney’s Office.”
Goralczyk faces up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine. According to the Plea Agreement, Goralczyk also agrees to forfeit $7,500 which the Government alleged was derived from the bribery scheme. Goralczyk is represented by Attorney Scott King.