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Lawyer sentenced to 2 years for wire fraud conviction

December 6, 2017

A disbarred Lake County lawyer convicted of wire fraud after he was accused of draining a receivership of more than $330,000 was sentenced to two years in federal prison Tuesday.

Robert Stochel of Merrillville also was ordered to make restitution of $229,091.97 — representing the amount the government said he took from a Gary grocery store receivership, minus funds from other sources he deposited into the account over the course of more than a decade.

Senior Judge James T. Moody of the District Court for the Northern District of Indiana in Hammond sentenced Stochel to a term between the approximately four to five years of incarceration sought by the government and the one-year term sought by his defense counsel. Moody recommended Stochel serve his sentence in a federal prison in close proximity to the Northern District. Stochel must report to the designated prison by Jan. 19, according to the sentencing judgment.

Stochel’s prison term will be followed by one year of supervised release.

Stochel was appointed in 2000 as successor receiver after the family-owned Tip Top Supermarket Inc. dissolved in 1998. The Indiana Supreme Court suspended him in 2015, and he was later disbarred. He was accused by the Disciplinary Commission of having depleted the receivership account by 2004, after which he repeatedly misled parties by falsely telling Tip Top’s owners, Maurice and Alan Schwarz, for about a decade that he was close to wrapping it up. Stochel also provided false assurances there was money in the account, investigators said.

Moody ordered restitution to the Schwarz family, whose attorneys raised questions in 2015 about why Stochel, an attorney since 1978, had not been criminally charged. He was indicted about a year later. His sentencing order also permits the court to seize certain of his property to satisfy the restitution order.

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