Tag Archives: Ethics

Gary Councilman To Plead Guilty to Two Misdemeanor Tax Counts

9 Dec

by Ken Davidson

Here is a lesson for anyone potentially facing federal charges, get a great attorney and get in front of the situation before the press can get a handle on it.  In a Lake County first, Gary Councilman Ronier Scott announced a plea of guilty on the day that the office of US Attorney David Capp announced the charges against him.  Scott avoids the months of negative press that have plagued some other politicians in similar circumstances.  While he still will certainly face much scrutiny, it appears that he will not be required under Indiana law to resign his council seat.  Scott’s Attorney, Kerry Connor, confirmed to the Gazette tonight that the plea agreement calls for Scott to plead to two misdemeanor counts, each carrying a maximum term of one year in prison.  Under Indiana law, an elected official must resign if he or she is convicted of a felony.

Scott admitted in a written agreement that he failed to file tax returns for the years 2008 and 2009.  The agreement will be submitted to the Court on December 20, 2013.  Scott’s wife will be spared prosecution under the agreement.

Ronier Scott was previously implicated in a mortgage fraud matter involving convicted mortgage huckster Jerry Haymon.  Scott had given Haymon a $75,000 grant to renovate a home in his district.  Scott admitted that federal agents had questioned him several times in that matter.   It remains to be seen whether Gary voters will still “punch 10” and re-elect Scott

State appeals tobacco arbitration ruling

5 Dec

INDIANAPOLIS — Today Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office appealed the recent arbitration panel ruling that reduces by $62.8 million the amount tobacco companies pay to Indiana to offset the costs of smoking-related illnesses.
As the lawyer for State government, Zoeller contends the arbitration panel of three retired federal judges exceeded their authority under law and the process they used prejudiced Indiana’s case. The panel unfairly judged Indiana by using a new legal definition they created after the fact and imposed retroactively; and the panel based their ruling on erroneous findings and disregarded the State’s own laws. After consulting with the legislative and executive branches, Zoeller’s office today appealed the arbitration panel’s ruling by filing a “motion to vacate” in Marion County Civil Superior Court in Indianapolis. That court retains jurisdiction over the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between Indiana and the major tobacco companies, and has jurisdiction to hear this appeal of the arbitration panel’s ruling.
Zoeller’s office asks the Marion County court to vacate the arbitration panel’s entire award, or, in the alternative, modify the amount received. Zoeller seeks a reallocation of the amount tobacco companies pay Indiana and other states, so that Indiana would receive an amount closer to the $131.2 million payment projected and not the $68.4 million Indiana would otherwise receive next April as a result of the panel’s actions. Settlement monies that tobacco companies pay Indiana under the MSA indirectly reimburse the State for the medical costs to taxpayers of smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema; and the funds are used for tobacco-cessation efforts.
“Fifteen years after signing the Master Settlement Agreement that was intended to bring some closure to the issue, the big tobacco companies continue to wage a legal battle against Indiana and other states to reduce their settlement payment for the consequences of their product on the costs of health care for our citizens. Triggered by the tobacco companies themselves, this arbitration process was extremely complex, and the panel’s fundamentally flawed ruling treated Indiana unfairly compared to similar states. Through this legal action we seek ultimately to restore the tobacco payments to Indiana to more equitable levels,” Attorney General Zoeller said.
At issue in the arbitration panel’s hearings was how “diligently” Indiana enforced the MSA in 2003. In the motion, Indiana objects strenuously to the arbitration panel’s creating a new definition of “diligent enforcement” after more than a year of hearings were complete and applying it retroactively long after Indiana had finished presenting its case. Moreover, 20 other states that settled rather than continue with the laborious arbitration process were not held to the newly-created “diligent enforcement” standard Indiana was subjected to. Their settlement also adversely affected the allocation of payment reductions to non-settling states. The motion notes the panel got basic facts wrong in their analysis of enforcement efforts Indiana officials undertook going back to 2002. See this excerpt from page 24 of the motion to vacate:
“In addition to irrationally faulting Indiana for things it did not do (incorrectly asserting that it did not establish its Tobacco Enforcement Unit until October 2003) and not acknowledging the many positive things it did do (filing 14 lawsuits when other states filed none), the panel manifestly disregarded the very framework it used to determine whether a state was diligent or not. Thus, the panel applied its own factors in an entirely arbitrary and internally inconsistent fashion, or departed from them entirely.”
A hearing date has not yet been scheduled on the state’s motion to vacate. Among the defendants are the major tobacco companies often referred to as the “Participating Manufacturers” or PMs including the corporate parent of Philip Morris Tobacco Company, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the Lorillard Tobacco Company and several other cigarette manufacturers.

State Police Warn of Phone Scam Targeting Grandparents !

5 Dec

Gazette Staff

The Indiana State Police would like to warn the public about a phone scam that has
been reported recently in central Indiana, but happens annually all across the
state. Recently some elderly residents have been swindled out of money by out of
country con artists that are calling from phone numbers in the U.S. and Canada.

The scam targets grandparents with the subject calling the victim stating he is a
grandson and is in trouble, usually in Canada, and needs cash wired right away. The
“trouble” calls have ranged from the grandson being arrested to being hurt in a car
crash and needing money for treatment.

The caller is quick to ask grandparents NOT to call mom or dad and let them know, so
investigators warn would be victims to always call relatives to check up on the
situation-even when the caller tells you not to.

Remember, never wire money without verifying the situation with relatives. In
addition, never give out personal information like dates of birth, social security
numbers or bank account numbers over the phone. Victims have lost funds ranging from
the hundreds to thousands of dollars to this scam.

If you get a call from a number you don’t recognize, let it go to voicemail. If they
don’t leave a message, it was probably a scam call generated by computerized
automatic dialer set to dial thousands of numbers, looking for a victim who will
answer and believe their phone story. If you feel you’ve been a victim, the FBI
website for filing a complaint is http://www.ic3.gov, or you can call your local State
Police Post.

Mortgage Fraud Collateral Damage/More mortgage fraud convictions…

21 Nov

Submitted by Gary Free Press

The following post is in response to the sentencing of Jeffrey Youngheim, owner of Property Liquidators in Gary, Indiana. It was provided to the Gazette by Gary Free Press and is reprinted in its entirety.

While the Judge in the case identified that mortgage fraud hurts lenders and the community as the homes go into foreclosure and sit empty, what he did not mention, and may not even be aware of is another way all of these mortgage fraud schemes have done horrible damage to the Gary community.

During the height of the mortgage fraud binge in Gary; which included certain individuals formerly employed by the City of Gary—at least one of them a department head—all of these characters were flying high. They created a false bubble. They kept inflating the “values” of these homes in Gary, these homes that were the grist for their scheme.

But the actual real estate market in Gary was declining. Actual market values were plunging downward, yet these scammers kept submitting these fake and fraudulent sales to the County. Pretty much the only homes that were selling–besides all of the stuff being sold on tax sales, were from this group and many of the other groups plying the mortgage fraud schemes in Gary. Remember Jerry Haymon and his crew? The sales information from these mortgage fraud sales were about the only information for sales there was in Gary. So when the Calumet Township Assessor developed their trending ratios (the basis for raising the assessments) from sales disclosures, this is all they had to work with. But they were all fake! The few legitimate sales would have shown declining values.

So here is where the problem came in: the Calumet Township Assessor, instead of actually assessing property properly, uses the data from all of these fraudulent transactions as a basis to determine trending ratios. To them, it seems that the Gary housing market is on fire, but in reality, in is dead on arrival. So they apply this falsely derived trending ratio to all of the properties that aren’t part of these fraud schemes. What happens then? Assessed values of property in Gary doubles, triples, quadruples, and then some! 6000 appeals pending! Up to 13,000 Gary properties listed on tax sales! Everything is screwed up royally!

So why then, now that these schemes have been all been exposed, don’t they (Calumet Township Assessor) admit their mistakes? When will they take responsibility for all of the damage they have caused by using the bad data these frauds generated? Unfortunately, it is too late to undue most of the damage. People have fled the city. People just walked away from their properties. They had no choice; they couldn’t afford to hang onto them any longer. Now we learn there are 10,000 abandoned homes that need to be demolished.

All of these disastrous conditions can be directly linked to these mortgage fraud schemes.

The Judge was right, these schemes were very damaging to the community; but the greatest damage and the greatest harm to the Gary community was caused by the Calumet Township Assessor’s mistakes.

And now, we are supposed to worry about these two defendants being inconvenienced by both being in federal prison at the same time? They were an integral part of the broader conspiracy that helped to destroy this city. They do not seem to be good candidates for sympathy.