Mayor of Whiting Joe Stahura

Whiting's Mayor Stahura will resign after admitting to wire and tax fraud

Contributed By:The 411 News

Campaign funds spent on casino gambling, credit card debt, and supporting adult daughter

Whiting Mayor Joseph Stahura intends to plead guilty to federal fraud charges and will resign in coming days.

Federal court officials in Hammond announced charges against the mayor and his wife, Diane Stahura Thursday morning. Soon after, the City of Whting's Facebook page posted "An Open Letter from Mayor Joe," the mayor's resignation letter.

Northern District U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II said today's charges are "another black eye for northwest Indiana. Mr. Stahura, an elected official for over 35 years, illegally used his campaign funds for personal activities and expenditures and lied about it on his publically filed campaign reports and tax returns. He knew his conduct was illegal, yet he persisted in it for over 5 years."

Stahura has served as mayor since 2004 and prior to that was a city councilmanfor 20 years. His letter admits to using election campaign funds for personal use that he "routinely paid back."

Diane Stahura entered into a deferred prosecution agreement, admitting that the Government had sufficient evidence to charge her with wire fraud.

According to documents in the case, the mayor and his wife used his campaign fund for personal expenditures, casino gambling, credit card debt and providing financial support to an adult daughter.

From February 2014 through 2019, Mr. and Mrs. Stahura used approximately $255,000 of funds from the mayor's campaign bank account for personal purposes, while disguising the activity by filing campaign reports with false and misleading information and by omitting material information from the reports.

In April 2019, Mayor Stahura filed a false tax return. He falsely listed his gross income, not accounting for the amount stolen from the Campaign Account in 2018 which was approximately $51,480. Additionally, on his campaign finance report he overstated the “loan repayment amount” to his campaign by approximately $40,000.

Indiana campaign finance law restricts the use of money contributed to a campaign committee. Candidates could use committee money to pay expenses reasonably related to a campaign for political office, continuing political activity, and activity related to service in elected office. Candidates could not use committee money for a primarily personal purpose or commingle personal funds with campaign funds.

Mayor Stahura entered into a plea agreement, which has been filed with the court, to resolve the criminal charges. If this signed plea agreement is accepted by the court, the length of sentence and amount of restitution will be determined by the court at a sentencing hearing after consideration of federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

This case is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, both members of the US Attorney’s Public Corruption Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Philip Benson and Gary Bell.

Story Posted:08/27/2020

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