Former Lake County Sheriff John Buncich was sentenced to over 15 years in prison after he was convicted of several charges involving fraud and solicitation.
The 72-year-old ex-Sheriff’s “betrayal of public trust,” according to the United States Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II, involved a towing scheme that Buncich devised and put into practice starting in February 2014. Buncich used his authority over vehicle towing in the area to “corruptly” solicit, demand, and receive “over $25,000 in cash and $7,000 in checks in exchange for favorable actions by Buncich regarding the towing contracts,” according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Indiana.
Also involved in this case was Timothy Downs, who was Buncich’s second in command at the time of the towing scheme, and William Szarmach, owner of CSA Towing in Lake Station, Indiana. Both Downs and Szarmach, who each testified at the trial, are awaiting sentences for wire fraud and bribery convictions.
“Taxpayers expect their elected officials to protect and improve their communities,” stated IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Gabriel Grchan. “Rather than serve his community, Buncich abused his position and devised a pay-to-play towing scheme that benefited him and a few others financially.”
Grchan said he hopes this trial and sentencing will “dissuade” other authoritative figures from betraying public trust with criminal activity.
Buncich is now an inmate at the Metropolitan Correction Center in Chicago.