“I encourage anyone with information about possible corruption in their town or city to report it to me or to the FBI”-United States Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch
April 20, 2018-Evidence indicates that former Lake County Sheriff Chief Deputy Daniel Murchek planned to follow in the steps of his boss John Buncich and continue with the towing pay-to-play scheme for which Buncich was sentenced to 188 months in federal prison. According to United States Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch, Murchek was interviewed by FBI agents just days after Buncich’s arrest. Agents questioned Murchek about contributions that had been made to his campaign for Sheriff according to the statement.
Records obtained from the Lake County Board of Elections and Voter Registration show that Murchek reported just 6 contributions in 2016. Four of those contributions were $1,000.00 each and were from Chase Street Auto and Samson Towing:
Chase Street Auto 8/10/2016 $1,000.00 (Chase Street Auto A/K/A CSA Towing is owned by Willie Szarmach*)
Samson Towing 8/10/2016 $1,000.00 (Samson Towing is owned by Scott Jurgensen*)
Chase Street Auto 9/23/2016 $1,000.00
Samson Towing 9/23/2016 $1,000.00
United States Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch says that Murchek received a contribution in the amount of $500.00 from an employee of Samson Towing but that amount was not disclosed on his campaign finance report. Murchek filed two reports for the year 2016, an original and an amended report which corrected a clerical error but did not change the report in any material way.
Kirsch says that the September 23, 2016 meeting with Samson was recorded by investigators:
“In fact, during the investigation, Person A recorded conversations with Murchek and others. During these recorded conversations, Murchek explained how to structure campaign contributions to avoid Indiana campaign finance laws. Specifically, Murchek explained that an individual could structure campaign donations by giving money to another person who could then write a check to the campaign committee to conceal from whom the donation actually was made. On September 23, 2016, Person A met with Murchek for the purpose of donating money to Murchek’s campaign. Person A explained to Murchek that Person A gave $500 to one of his employees, and the employee then wrote a check for $500 to Murchek’s campaign, which check Person A provided to Murchek on that date. Person A specifically told Murchek that the contribution was actually from Person A and not from whom the check was written. Person A further told Murchek that Person A structured the donation as Murchek directed to avoid Indiana campaign finance laws and to “stay under the radar.”Murchek stated in part that he was “all good with that.” During these conversations, Murchek also indicated that he would reduce the number of companies on the sheriff’s approved tow list, which action was intended, at least in part, to benefit Person A.”-U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch written statement on indictment and plea agreement by Daniel L. Murchek
The above statements, together with the four campaign contributions received in just over a month, make it clear that Murchek intended to step into the shoes of former Sheriff John Buncich and continue the criminal enterprise that was begun under Buncich. Murchek clearly would have been a frontrunner in the race and all those who are now distancing themselves from him would have had yard signs proclaiming their support. Yard signs paid for by a pay-to-play scheme that is all too common in Lake County, Indiana.
In the written release, US Attorney Kirsch asks all residents who have information regarding public corruption to contact his office or the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: In response to a question, the Gazette reminds readers that Willie Szarmach was charged along with John Buncich. Szarmach has entered a plea of guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Scott Jorgensen was cooperating with the investigation from the beginning and was identified as “Individual A” throughout the court filings. Jorgensen has not been charged.murchek_amended _ann_rpt_2016