Mayor of Whiting, Indiana, Joseph Stahura has been charged for wire fraud and filing a false income tax return after using campaign money for personal spending. According to the court record, his wife Diane Stahura also misused the campaign funds.
Whiting Mayor Charged with Wire, Tax Fraud
Joseph Stahura, Whiting, Indiana Mayor since 2004 has been charged with wire fraud and filing a false income tax return, announced the U.S. Attorney’s Office last week. U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II said that Stahura pleads guilty on both charges and entered into a plea agreement. Furthermore, Stahura’s wife, Diane Stahura acknowledged that the state officials have sufficient evidence to charge her with wire fraud.
According to the release by the Department of Justice (DOJ), both Mr. and Mrs. Stahura used funds from the campaign “Committee to Elect Joe Stahura” (the Committee) for personal purposes. The DOJ release outlines that approximately $255,000 of the mayor’s campaign money was used for personal activities for the period between 2014 and 2019. Such activities included repaying credit card debt, gambling, and providing financial support to an adult daughter.
In a statement, Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II wrote: “Today’s charges and guilty plea are another black eye for Northwest Indiana. Mr. Stahura, an elected official for over 35 years, illegally used his campaign funds for personal activities and expenditures and lied about it on his publically filed campaign reports and tax returns.” Kirsch added that the mayor knew that his conduct was illegal, but yet persisted in it for more than 5 years. The attorney’s statement concluded with him encouraging people to contact his office or the FBI with any concerns regarding corrupt public officials.
$255,000 of the Mayor’s Campaign Money Used for Personal Expenses
According to the court records, both Mr. and Mrs. Stahura were transferring funds from the Committee fund to their personal bank account. The court record outlined that part of those funds was used for gambling in Indiana, Iowa, and Michigan.
The court record outlined that on June 9, 2014, some $9,000 were transferred from the Committee fund to a personal bank account, repaying a Citicards credit card debt.
Another transaction occurred on December 24, 2014, according to the court record. Back then, Ms. Stahura transferred some $1,500 from the Committee to a personal bank account. The amount was then used for gambling at a casino on the same day. Some $1,000 were withdrawn from the mayor’s campaign fund and transferred to his daughter’s account on February 5, 2019, the court record shows.
The DOJ paper outlines that if the signed plea agreement is accepted by the court, the sentence and amount of restitution will be determined by the court at a sentencing hearing following consideration of federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
Mayor Stahura’s Apology and Expected Resignation
In a statement released last week, Mayor Stahura apologized about the misuse of the Committee funds. He said that he cares deeply about his family and does not hesitate to help them when needed. He added: “All I can say at this time is that I used some funds from my campaign account for personal use. I routinely paid it back, (but) the circumstances have resulted in wire fraud and income tax violations.“
He continued by thanking for the support over the years and saying that he was honored to serve the public. Stahura added that the “decision to accept the plea agreement is in the best interest of my family and the citizens of Whiting“. He also reassured that no city money was touched. In conclusion, Mayor Stahura said that he will be resigning in the days to come.