Former Sheriff Candidate admitted to lying to FBI about “structuring” campaign contributions
April 20, 2018-A previously filed federal indictment charging Lake County Sheriff Patrol Commander Daniel Murchek with one count of lying to FBI agents was unsealed today. Murchek was third in command under former Sheriff John Buncich and the indictment marks the trifecta of the top three police officials in Lake County being indicted. John Buncich was sentenced to 188 months in prison after a lengthy jury trial and second in command Timothy Downs pleaded guilty in December, 2016 and awaits sentencing.
Murcheck admitted to lying to FBI agents with regard to the “structuring” of campaign finance contributions. These contributions were to the his own campaign as he began to prepare for a run for Sheriff after Buncich finished his second term. Murchek abrubtly dropped out of the race for sheriff earlier this year without comment.
According to the Plea Agreement, Murchek accepted contributions for his campaign for Sheriff from a towing operator knowing that the money was provided by “Individual A” and then lied to investigators about the source of those donations:
The case is significant because it is the first in the towing scandal that marks a contribution that was not to the Buncich Campaign. The contributions in this case were made to the Murchek for Sheriff Campaign and not to the Buncich Boosters. Additionally, the practice of structuring campaign contributions is likely a common occurence in Lake County and this is the first indication that federal investigators are looking into that practice. In 2015, a protracted and contentious case before the Lake County Board of Elections revealed that Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson had misrepresented donations from Roosevelt Haywood III as being from the Gary Community School Corporation. Ultimately Buncich abruptly removed Kevin Smith from the election board and placed Hammond Attorney J. Justin Murphy in his place. Murphy promptly issued a $10 fine against Freeman-Wilson and disposed of all complaints against her despite requests to refer the matter to the Lake County Prosecutor for investigation.
Murchek could face up to 5 years in prison for making the false statement. It is unclear when the indictment was handed down as it remains sealed, but the delay in unsealing the indictment and the submission of a plea agreement at the same time that the indictment is made public is indicative of cooperation between the defendant and the Government.
Murchek resigned from the Lake County Sheriff’s Department on Wednesday April 18, 2018.murchekplea