Former Whiting mayor who stole money to gamble avoids prison

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A former Whiting mayor who pleaded guilty to charges that he spent about a quarter-million dollars in campaign funds to gamble and pay personal bills avoided prison on Wednesday when a federal judge ordered he be placed on two years’ probation and home detention for one year.

Joe Stahura, a 64-year-old Democrat who was mayor for 17 years after a prior 20 years as a city councilman, was also ordered by Northern District of Indiana Senior Judge James T. Moody to pay a $7,500 fine. But the judge decided against following the recommendation of federal prosecutors last month to sentence Stahura to 15 months in federal prison.

In September, Stahura, 64, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and filing a false tax return, felony charges that carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He was forced out of public office at the time.

His wife, Diane Stahura, entered into a separate agreement in which she acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence to charge her with wire fraud, according to a statement.

At Wednesday’s hearing Stahura apologized. “I’ve not only embarrassed my wife, my family, and the residents of Whiting, but everyone who believed in me,” he said.

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