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April 29, 2017-Former Calumet Township Trustee Mary Elgin and her son, Steven Hunter have entered guilty pleas to federal wire fraud charges. In documents filed in the US District Court yesterday, the pair agreed to plead guilty to 1 counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 2 counts of wire fraud. Elgin will plead to an additional count of willful failure to file a tax return. Elgin and Hunter were scheduled to go to trial on May 8, 2017. Co-Defendants Ethel Shelton and Alex Wheeler are not scheduled for trial at this time.
Mary Elgin was the Calumet Township Trustee from 2003 to 2014. Elgin ran for re-election in 2014, declaring her innocence after federal agents had raided her office in March, 2014. She lost a heated primary battle to political insider Kimberly Robinson. Elgin herself replaced now convicted former Township Trustee Dozier Allen. Kimberly Robinson’s mother Wanda Joshua was convicted along with Allen after a jury trial.
Elgin admits that she used employees of the financially troubled Calumet Township Trustee’s Office to do personal campaign work-selling tickets for her fundraisers including an annual prayer “Unity Prayer Brunch” In the plea agreement, signed by Elgin, she outlines her actions and those of her co-defendants:
vii. The defendant further admits the following:
Between approximately Spring of 2003, and continuing through Fall of 2014, I knew the following to be true:
I was employed as the elected Calumet Township Trustee and that office was located in Lake County, Indiana, in the Northern District of Indiana. In my position as the elected Calumet Township Trustee, I was fully aware that the rules and regulations contained in the Calumet Township Employee Handbook prohibited the use of Calumet Township property to engage in political activity. I was also fully aware that the rules and regulations contained in the Calumet Township Employee Handbook prohibited the use of Calumet Township employees to engage in political activity while on Calumet Township property or while being paid with Calumet Township funds. I knew that these rules and regulations applied to every employee of the Calumet Township Trustee’s Office.
With full knowledge of the above, I directed each of my coconspirators identified in the indictment, while on Calumet Township property and while being paid with Calumet Township funds, to engage in political activity and raise funds for my political campaign committee known as EPIC (Elgin Political Initiative Committee). In so doing, my co-conspirators and I diverted the resources of the Calumet Township Trustee’s Office, both financial and non-financial, to my political activities that directly benefited my co-conspirators and me.
To obtain funding for EPIC, I set up a series of annual political fundraisers commonly referred to as the Elgin Extravaganza, The Unity Prayer Brunch, and Mardi Gras. Each of these fundraisers involved the sale of tickets. The Elgin Extravaganza and the Unity Prayer Brunch also involved the sale of advertising books. For each of these fundraisers, I directed my co-conspirators to engage in various campaign fundraising activities directed at
Calumet Township employees while on Calumet Township property and time. This involved my co- conspirators soliciting Calumet Township employees for political contributions at the Calumet Township Trustee’s Office while on Calumet Township time. Employees were each given a certain number of tickets depending on the type of fundraiser and the employee’s salary. The higher the employee’s salary, the more tickets the employee was given and expected to purchase. Employees were expected either to sell the tickets they received or to purchase the tickets themselves. All of the money was turned into the employee’s supervisor, including Steven Hunter, Alex Wheeler, and also Ethel Shelton. Some supervisors, as well as Shelton, kept a detailed list of the tickets issued, purchased, and returned by employees. Much, if not all of this, was done while the employees were being paid with Calumet
Additionally, I used Calumet Township office space to store decorative items needed for each of EPIC’s fundraisers. Before each fundraiser, Calumet Township employees would retrieve from storage the various items necessary for the particular fundraiser. After retrieving these items, Calumet Township employees assembled and prepared items for each of the political fundraisers. These items were transported to the fundraiser location. Calumet Township employees decorated the location with these items. Most, if not all of this occurred on Calumet Township time and with Calumet Township employees paid with Calumet Township funds.
My co-defendants and myself performed a variety of other political work, and also directed other Calumet Township
employees to engage in political work on Calumet Township including preparation of campaign plans, preparation of
campaign finance reports, preparation of campaign fund-raising events, solicitations to purchase political fund raising tickets, design of campaign literature, and typing of campaign letters.
I acknowledge that the resources of the Calumet Township Trustee’s Office that my co-conspirators and I illegally used for my political campaign, during the time period specified in the indictment, would exceed $15,000.
I further acknowledge that I authorized payment of my salary and those of my co-defendants, knowing that a portion of the time for which we were being paid, was for my personal political work and unrelated to the interests of the Calumet Township Trustees Office. In doing this, I knowing defrauded the Calumet Township Trustees Office of money and property, including portions of salary payments in November of 2010 and November of 2011 to my co-defendants and myself.
I further admit that in April of 2014, I willfully failed to timely file my 2013 federal tax return. I knew that I had a legal obligation to file a return, but failed to do so. I further admit that throughout 2013, and at the time my 2013 federal tax return was due to be filed, I was residing within the Northern District of Indiana.
According to the terms of the plea agreement counts 4-14 of the indictment will be dismissed. Notably, count VI of the indictment charged Elgin with taking kickbacks in the form of campaign contributions according to documents filed in the case:
as alleged in Count 6, of the indictment, between approximately Spring of 2003 and continuing through Fall of 2014, Mary Elgin, Steven Hunter, Ethel Shelton, Alex Wheeler, and others, conspired to commit Honest Services Wire Fraud by devising a scheme and artifice to defraud and deprive CTTO and the citizens of Calumet Township of their right to the honest and faithful services of the Defendants, through the solicitation and payment of bribes and kickbacks in the form of campaign ticket payments and forced political work, and the concealment of
material information, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343, 1346, and 1349 (See elginsantiago)
Mary Elgin and Steven Hunter will be sentenced by Judge Joseph S. Van Bokkelen according to Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Although the charges carry a maximum penatly of 20 years in prison, the sentencing guidelines provide for a sentence in the range of 21-27 months in prison based upon the offense. Judge Van Bokkelen will consider the sentencing guidelines along with a variety of other factors in imposing sentence. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Citizens who have any information about any perceived wrongdoing are urged to call the Federal Bureau of Investigation at (219) 769-3719. All calls will be treated confidentially.