Sentencing set for ex-Whiting mayor over campaign fund misuse

A former northwestern Indiana mayor faces a January sentencing after pleading guilty to charges that he illegally used public campaign donations to cover gambling losses.

Joseph Stahura, 64, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and filing a false tax return, felonies that carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Judge James T. Moody of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana in Hammond has formally accepted the plea bargain, which doesn’t specify what sentence Stahura might receive when he’s sentenced on Jan. 13, The Times of Northwest Indiana reported.

Stahura served 17 years as mayor of the Lake County city of Whiting until he resigned earlier this year.

Federal prosecutors say he and his wife, Diane, made more than 50 withdrawals from Stahura’s campaign fund between 2014 and 2019 and transferred about $255,000 to their personal bank account.

The government alleges the money covered $55,700 of the couple’s gambling debts at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond; the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa; and Blue Sky Casino in French Lick.

The government hasn’t charged Diane Stahura with any crimes in connection with the case.

Her husband has also admitted filing a false 2018 federal income tax return that didn’t account for the diverted money from his campaign account, as well as a false 2018 campaign finance disclosure report to the county that overstated his repayment of money he took from his campaign fund.

Joseph Stahura has agreed to pay the Internal Revenue Service at least $28,977 in delinquent taxes.

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