Lake County Sheriff, Portage Mayor indicted in bribery scheme

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich (Photo supplied/Lake County Sheriff's Department)

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) — A federal grand jury has indicted a northwestern Indiana sheriff, his top deputy and a mayor for allegedly collecting bribes in return for contracts for towing and other services.

The indictments announced Friday name Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, Chief Deputy Tim Downs, Portage Mayor James Snyder and tow company owners William Szarmach of Lake Station and John Cortina of Portage.

Prosecutors say Buncich received over $25,000 in cash and $7,000 in checks, often collected by Downs, from Szarmach and an unnamed individual for towing contracts in Gary and Lake County.

Snyder allegedly received $12,000 from Cortina and the same unnamed individual for towing contracts in Portage. He’s also charged with receiving $13,000 for other city contracts or projects.

The FBI served search warrants at Buncich’s offices last week.

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