Martinsville council member arrested, charged with 22 felonies

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The existing Morgan Co. courthouse.

Morgan County Attorney and Martinsville City Council member James Wisco was arrested Thursday morning on 22 felony charges including theft, counterfeiting, and corrupt business practice.

Wisco, 43, was arrested at the Morgan County Jail.

There was a $5,000 cash bond set.

The warrant for his arrest was issued from Morgan Superior Court II for one count of Level 5 felony corrupt business influence, 13 counts of Level 6 felony theft, seven counts of Level 6 felony counterfeiting, and one count of Level 6 felony official misconduct.

Wisco agreed to surrender to the Indiana State Police and was arrested without incident.

He admitted to the thefts and forgeries amounting to a total of $164,489.31, according to a probable cause affidavit.

The Indiana State Police announced the arrest came from a December 2023 investigation following a meeting with Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega, who had requested the investigation after becoming aware of forgery and theft allegations involving Wisco.

Multiple clients went to Sonnega to report the theft of their money by Wisco.

Sonnega said Jefferson County Prosecutor David Sutter has been appointed to the case as a special prosecutor.

Master Trooper/Detective Tim Denby initiated the investigation in which he interviewed victims and witnesses as well as obtained financial documents after requesting judicially signed search warrants and subpoenas.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Denby spoke with Kimberly Hickman who Wisco represented in her divorce proceeding. Hickman stated she called, emailed and left messages with Wisco to get her $15,000 that was owed to her.

Wisco gave her a check which she deposited and a few days later the check was returned as having insufficient funds. Wisco gave her another check and it bounced again. She never received her money.

Morgan County Administrator Josh Messmer stated that Wisco acted as county attorney for the Morgan County Commissioners in a case.

Once the matter was resolved the Morgan County Circuit Clerk issued a check  in the amount of $11,734.25 to Wisco. That check was deposited by Wisco into a First Merchants Bank account belonging to Foley Peden & Wisco.

The cancelled check was not readable as to the account number that those proceeds were deposited.

Messmer stated those proceeds belong to Morgan County and that Wisco has advised him that he was going to pay the county those proceeds that were owed to them but that has not happened.

Mark Peden stated him and Ralph Foley owned the building the law firm Foley Peden & Wisco, P.A. resides in.

He told Denby that all the attorneys in the building operated individual law practices but that Wisco look over the control for paying the utilities and getting mail from the post office.

Peden’s assistant alerted him that she had not been receiving his IOLTA Trust Account records from the bank.

After contacting the bank, the bank officials presented Peden with the following checks signed by a signature stamp with his name. The total came out to $11,029.11.

Peden stated he did not authorize those checks to be written and that he recognized the handwriting on the checks to be very similar to Wisco’s.

Peden stated that he is the signer of this account and Wisco is not on the account as a signor, adding that the checks and his signature stamp to his IOLTA Trust Account were kept in his assistant’s desk

Peden stated that sometime after that he confronted Wisco and advised him that you can’t mess around with Trust Accounts.

He said that Wisco acknowledged the theft and forgeries and stated that it was a dormant account.

Penden’s legal assistant Karen McCrary confirmed that Wisco had to go into her office desk drawer to get the signature stamp and then had to go into her office file cabinet to get the checks for the account to write and forge the checks that were reported as stolen and forged without Peden’s permission.

Wisco also represented Tammy Prather and her sisters in their father’s estate.

Prather’s mother-in-law paid a check of $15,810.22 to Wisco to distribute the money equally between the three women. Wisco never did and also never responded to the women.

Attorney Linda Chezem used office space at the firm.

In August 2023, Wisco asked to collect her Malpractice Insurance fee of $2,077.

Chezem wrote a check to Wisco but later found out her coverage lapsed because he never submitted her premium. Wisco never paid her back or let her know that he did not pay her malpractice insurance.

Betty and Steve Bolin stated that Wisco never distributed the $108,838.73 from the sale of their house in their divorce proceeding.

The case is State of Indiana County of Morgan v. James Kent Wisco, 55D02-2404-F5-000547.

According to MyCase, Wisco was ordered to show cause on three separate cases with the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission as to why he should not be suspended immediately from the practice of law due to failure to cooperate with the commission’s investigation of grievances.

The May 14 orders stated Wisco had 10 days to respond.

The orders also further stated that he would be ordered to pay reimbursement to the commission of $500, plus actual expenses incurred by the commission.

On April 5, the certified mail sent to Wisco was returned as undeliverable. MyCase shows certified mail was sent again on April 9.

According to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys, Wisco is currently active and in good standing.

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