Racketeering litigation that began in 2004 against former East Chicago Mayor Robert Pastrick ended Thursday as Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller turned over more than $331,000 the state collected from Pastrick and co-defendants to the city.
Zoeller pressed a Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization case against Pastrick and other former city officials involved in a “sidewalks for votes” scheme that alleged the squandering $24 million in taxpayer funds. The case originated under former Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter and resulted in the 2009 judgment of $108 million against Pastrick and co-defendants. It marked the first time a U.S. city administration had been found to be a criminal enterprise under federal racketeering laws.
Funds Zoeller turned over to East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland Thursday as a partial payment included more than $145,416 liquidated from Pastrick after a bankruptcy court ruled his assets were not exempt from the judgment in the RICO case. Co-defendants provided $186,250 awarded in settlements and judgments.
“The loss of public trust is the legacy of the Pastrick regime, one that will take time to restore. In the end, our legal actions once again show that no one is above the law,” Zoeller said during a news conference. “Today marks a milestone in restoring public trust, and I salute Mayor Copeland for striving to have an ethical administration that seeks to earn the trust of the people.”
Copeland said the lessons of the Pastrick era won’t be repeated. “While history may record where we have been, the future will reveal that we have accepted our past. But it will not determine our future.”
Pastrick was mayor of East Chicago for 33 years.
“I’m glad that the attorney general went after these funds, and I’m glad to see they are coming back to the residents of East Chicago,” said Lenny Franciski, president of the East Chicago Common Council.
The AG’s office in court complaints noted Pastrick’s administration operated through patronage to perpetuate an organization often called “the Pastrick machine.” To boost his re-election chances in the 1999 mayoral primary, Pastrick and his allies engaged in a scheme that spent $24 million on a pre-election sidewalk-paving and tree-trimming operation – some of it on private properties – to curry favor with voters. The massive expenditures depleted the city treasury.
Thursday's return of money to the city marks the end of the attorney general's office's direct involvement in this portion of the case.
In a separate East Chicago corruption case, the AG’s office argued last month that a Marion County judge should find principals of Second Century in contempt for failing to comply with discovery on what happened to $16 million in riverboat casino revenue it received under a financial arrangement unique among Indiana gaming operations.
Second Century’s principals Michael A. Pannos, a former Indiana Democratic Party chairman, and Thomas S. Cappas, a Lake County Democratic Party activist, were longtime allies of Pastrick, and the casino license was granted during Pastrick’s tenure.