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Feds indict East Chicago mayor, former official

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Another East Chicago mayor is now being charged in the federal court for alleged misuse of public money, and defense attorneys say they'll go to trial to fight the charges.

Acting U.S. Attorney David Capp for the Northern District of Indiana Wednesday filed a grand jury indictment in the Hammond courthouse, charging East Chicago Mayor George Pabey and former city engineering department leader Jose Camacho with conspiring to divert city money and resources toward improving a house that Pabey owns with his daughter in Gary's Miller Beach neighborhood. Camacho is also charged with trying to persuade other city workers to lie to federal investigators about work the laborers allegedly did on the house while they were on the clock for the city, the indictment says.

In the 10-page indictment, prosecutors allege that Pabey used public money to do work on a Gary home bought as a foreclosure in late 2007. The indictment says that between late 2007 and August 2008, a crew of four "skilled laborers" supervised by Camacho worked on the home by pouring concrete, painting, and installing new appliances and furnishings. Camacho's accused of spending more than $5,000 in taxpayer money on materials for the project, and he also drew on an engineering department account. Once FBI agents starting investigating, Camacho told the other workers to either keep quiet or lie to the agents, according to the indictment.

The indictment accuses Pabey of two counts: a conspiracy charge and a charge that specifically accuses him of illegally diverting the city resources. Camacho faces the same charges and two counts of witness tampering.

East Chicago spokesman Damian Rico issued a statement Wednesday, saying the mayor did "nothing improper or illegal," that the allegations are false, and that Pabey has fully cooperated with federal investigators.

"I am shocked beyond expression that these allegations have been made by the government," Pabey said in the statement. "I will not be distracted by this event in continuing to conduct the business of my office on behalf of the people of East Chicago."

Gary attorney Fred Work and Merrillville attorney Scott King, a former Gary mayor, are serving as defense counsel.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Rodovich set a signature bond at $20,000 for both Pabey and Camacho, and lawyers stated to the media at the courthouse they anticipated going to trial.

Pabey took over as mayor in 2005 after outsting longtime political force Robert Pastrick in an Indiana Supreme Court-ordered special election. Pastrick went on to be the subject of a civil racketeering suit that's still pending before U.S. Senior Judge James Moody in Hammond. The Indiana Attorney General's Office declined to speak about that ongoing litigation, or what effect this federal case could have on that litigation.

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