Indiana Mayor and His Wife Indicted for Using Charity Funds to Gamble
An Indiana mayor and his wife have been indicted for allegedly gambling with money earmarked for the needy. Keith Soderquist, the mayor of Lake Station, Indiana, is accused by federal prosecutors of using public funds due to his problem gambling habits.
What makes the case more notable is the fact Soderquist’s wife, Deborah, received a separate indictment. One of the couple’s indictments includes an accusation that Mayor Soderquist’s stepdaughter used her position as a Lake Station employee to steal bond money which was posted at the city court. The charges state the stepdaughter then committed bankruptcy fraud.
Lawyer Says the Family Interprets the Case Differently
The lawyer for the Soderquist family, Scott King, says his clients have a different interpretation of the case than federal agents do. He also mentioned that the mayor and his wife have been cooperating with authorities for over a year.
One of the indictments charges Keith and Deborah Soderquist with using tax dollars from the Lake Station Food Pantry and the mayor’s campaign fund for their personal use. One of those uses was during dozens of gaming trips to the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan. These trips are alleged to have occurred from 2010 to 2012.
Alleged to Have Taken Funds for 3 Years
Over a 3-year period, the indictment claims the couple removed money from the bank account of the Committee to Elect Keith Soderquist, which amounted to $18,500 in all. In each of these 67 cases, the couple is said to have traveled to the Four Winds Casino to gamble. In at least one case, the couple withdrew $300 from the bank account from the Lake Station Food Pantry fund. Within 3 hours of that withdrawal, the couple were at the casino gambling.
On 14 other occasions, the accused made wire transfers from one of the two funds, allegedly for personal use. In all, the indictment states the couple lost $45,000 while gambling in 2010, $32,000 while gambling in 2011, and another $27,000 in 2012.
Hiding Their Transactions
While this was going on, federal authorities say the mayor did not fill out the proper forms to show he was removing money from his campaign fund. Also, the bank account statements for the food fund went directly to his office. Deborah Soderquist was listed as the mayor’s administrative assistant, so she was in place to see no one else saw the food pantry statements.
The federal indictments do not state how much money was taken from the campaign fund or the charity fund. Since $104,000 appears to have been lost gambling over a 3-year period, it is assumed the amount taken from the accounts is $104,000 or less. The money for the Food Pantry Fund came from local donations, city revenues, and state revenues.
The Second Indictment
The second federal indictment accused a form city court clerk and stepdaughter to Mayor Soderquist, Miranda Brakley, of stealing at least $5,000 in bond money and hiding $7,000 in income she received from a bankruptcy case. In the indictment, the Soderquists are charged with helping Brakley hide the thefts.
In June 2012, a city judge fired Brakley from her position as court clerk. Two weeks later, the mayor took control use bureaucratic infighting to take control of the court clerks, then rehired Brakley. This led the judge to sue the mayor and the city council for control of the clerks again. When this suit was successful, Brakely was fired once again.
Audit by the State Board of Accounts
These events led to an audit by the Indiana State Board of Accounts. In that audit, it was learned that $16,464 in bond money was missing from the court’s account. Most of this money had been overseen by Brakley. $15,800 had been turned over to the city by Miranda Brakley in December 2012, after she claimed she had accidentally taken the money while cleaning out her desk and had left the box in her vehicle by mistake the entire time.
The second indictment also accuses the Soderquists of violating federal banking law. They are alleged to have met with an unidentified person in December 2012, who gave them $15,000 in the form of three checks. Each of these checks were signed for less than $10,000, which is the size check which federal laws requires banks to report. This money was taken to banks in Munster and Merriville, Indiana, as well as a bank in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Presumably, this money may have been used by Miranda Brakley to pay the $15,800 she paid in the same month.
Keith Soderquist, Deborah Soderquist, and Miranda Brakely were released on bond after appearing in federal court on Thursday.
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