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Former Schererville judge sentenced

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A former judge in Lake County received a 15-month federal prison sentence on Thursday, four years after being indicted for extortion and fraud, and two years after she pleaded guilty to getting kickbacks from more than 1,000 defendants that she'd sentenced to driving school and counseling classes she secretly owned and personally profited from.

U.S. District Judge Philip Simon in the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division, sentenced former Schererville Town Judge Deborah Riga to prison and also ordered her to pay $12,120 in restitution to the town and state.

She was the second person elected to that town court and started in 2000; her plea agreement shows that within a year of taking the bench she set up the driver education and youth counseling programs and started using her judicial power to mandate criminal offenders attend those classes.

Court records show a similar but unrelated scheme where Riga had directed employees to change their hours and billing practices so that money normally going to the state and county would instead go to the town, and that the former judge stopped paying rent to the town for court space and had employees working on the township payroll whose wages should have come from a juvenile counseling program fund. At the sentencing hearing, Judge Simon noted the former judge made about $30,000 from that scheme.

Since Riga's indictment in 2004, the federal court granted six continuances and noted in its latest one in June that it would be the last. Part of the reason for delay was that Riga has been cooperating with the federal government in the prosecution of former political ally Robert Cantrell, who was convicted in June of 11 counts of fraud. That helped her get a reduced sentence, as well as the use of more lenient rules that were in place in 2002.

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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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