Federal Jury Convicts Mayor of Portage, Ind., on Corruption Charge for Pocketing a Bribe to Influence City Contracts
CHICAGO — A federal jury today convicted the mayor of Portage, Ind., on a corruption charge for soliciting and pocketing a bribe in exchange for influencing the awarding of city contracts.
The jury in U.S. District Court in Hammond, Ind., convicted JAMES SNYDER, 38, of Portage, Ind., on one count of bribery and one count of obstruction of internal revenue laws. The jury acquitted Mayor Snyder on one other bribery count. U.S. District Judge Joseph S. Van Bokkelen set sentencing for May 14, 2019. The bribery conviction is punishable by up to ten years in prison, while the obstruction count is punishable by up to three years.
The verdict was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Grant Mendenhall, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Indianapolis office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Gabriel L. Grchan, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago. The Indiana State Police provided valuable assistance. The government was represented at trial by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Philip C. Benson and Jill R. Koster of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Indiana. The prosecutors were supervised by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois after recusals by supervisory personnel from the Northern District of Indiana.
Evidence at trial revealed that from 2012 to 2014, Mayor Snyder corruptly solicited and agreed to accept a $13,000 check to influence the awarding of a series of city contracts, including more than $1.1 million in contracts approved by the Portage Board of Works.
The obstruction charge involved a scheme to impede the IRS’s collection of personal taxes owed by Mayor Snyder, and the collection of payroll taxes owed by Mayor Snyder’s mortgage business – Portage, Ind.-based First Financial Trust Mortgage LLC. While the IRS was attempting to collect these tax debts, Mayor Snyder secretly diverted funds from the mortgage business to a sole proprietorship that he created. Mayor Snyder submitted forms to the IRS that failed to disclose, among other things, the existence of the sole proprietorship and its bank account.