Federal authorities today announced corruption charges against Lake County, Ind., sheriff’s officers accused of illegally selling machine guns and a former county official who paid himself $25,000 in allegedly improper bonuses from a fund used to hire extra staff to pursue unpaid child support.
Lake County Coroner Thomas Philpot was charged with theft, mail fraud and misappropriation of funds in connection with some $25,000 he paid himself in allegedly improper bonuses while he was serving as county clerk, announced David Capp, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Indiana.
In a separate, six-count indictment, three officers in the Lake County Sheriff’s Department were charged with illegally buying dozens of machine guns and laser sights through the department using forged documents, then reselling the weapons at auctions from 2008 to 2010. The three, Sgt. Joseph Kumstar and officers Ed Kabella and Ron Slusser have agreed to guilty pleas with the U.S attorney and resigned from the department this week.
The indictment states the trio sold 92 laser sights, including several that were found in the home of a Mississippi man who had opened fire on police. They also sold 74 machine guns that were acquired illegally.
Federal investigators were alerted to the alleged gun trafficking in 2009 when a “concerned citizen” alerted the Department of Defense that weapons were missing from the department’s inventory.
Philpot’s bonus payments were revealed in an investigation by a local newspaper in 2009, after Philpot resigned as clerk with a year left on his term to take office as coroner.
Philpot maintained at the time that his attorney had said the bonus payments he received from 2004 to 2008 were legal and could be made without approval from the county council. After the stories appeared, a county attorney issued an opinion that the payouts were improper, and Philpot paid back nearly $30,000 — the $25,000, plus interest.