Ethel Shelton and Alex Wheeler

Feds drop 9 of 11 charges against Calumet Township employees

Contributed By:The 411 News

Ethel Shelton and Alex Wheeler claim their innocence

More than three years after their indictment on multiple counts of conspiracy and fraud, the jury trial of two former Calumet Township public employees was on Monday’s calendar in the U.S. District Court in Hammond.

Instead, most of the charges against Ethel Shelton and Alex Wheeler have been dropped. Shelton and Wheeler, along with Calumet Township Trustee Mary Elgin and her son Steven Hunter were indicted in December 2014. While Elgin and her son worked out a plea deal with federal prosecutors in 2017, Shelton and Wheeler chose a jury trial. Elgin and Hunter are waiting sentencing.

Monday, prosecuting attorneys produced motions to dismiss 9 of the eleven charges each defendant faced, selecting to proceed to trial on Shelton and Wheeler with only Counts 1 and 6 – conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.

Government attorneys said this will streamline the case, conserve the Court’s resources, and shorten the anticipated trial.

According to the indictment, Elgin directed “a scheme” with Hunter, Shelton, and Wheeler to use the office, resources, and staff of the Calumet Township Trustee for their own personal and political gains. Elgin, Wheeler, and Shelton are charged with directing their political campaigns during working hours at the township.

Wheeler and Shelton, the indictment states, helped Elgin enforce a collection of portions of employees’ salaries to buy tickets for Elgin’s political fundraisers. Employees faced retaliation if they refused to purchase tickets.

Elgin’s guilty plea statement said, “I authorized payment of my salary and those of my co-defendants, knowing that a portion of the time for which we were being paid was for my personal political work and unrelated to the interests of the Calumet Township Trustees Office.”

Hunter’s guilty plea statement said, “I engaged in political activity and raised funds for Mary Elgin’s political campaign committee known as EPIC (Elgin Political Initiative Committee). In so doing, my co-conspirators and I diverted the resources of the Calumet Township Trustee’s Office, both financial and non-financial, to Mary Elgin’s political activities that directly benefited my co-conspirators and me.”

Attorneys for both Shelton and Wheeler claim their clients did not willingly participate in the scheme.

Story Posted:04/02/2018

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