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Prosecutor suspects Old Y crimes

BY Carolyn Muyskens - cmuyskens@chronicle-tribune.com

Grant County Prosecutor James Luttrull Jr. says there is evidence “crimes may have occurred” during the failed renovation of the former YMCA building that has become the center of the City of Marion’s civil lawsuit.

Luttrull said an FBI investigation into several of the “financial agreements and projects” the city was involved in during former mayor Wayne Seybold’s tenure, including the Old Y project. Luttrull said he was not able to comment on the full scope of the investigation, but he said the investigation into the Old Y project included interviews with former and current city employees and other people involved. 

The outgoing prosecutor received copies in February this year of several FBI reports from an investigation that took place between the fall of 2013 and the fall of 2014. He said he signed a confidentiality agreement that prevents him from detailing more fully the contents of the FBI materials. 

“The reports that I reviewed suggested that crimes may have occurred,” Luttrull said. “They raised questions and suspicions in my mind.”

Luttrull directed his staff of investigators to review the FBI materials and also requested reports on the Old Y renovation from the Indiana State Board of Accounts (SBOA).

The evidence gathered in the FBI reports is not enough to prosecute though, Luttrull said. Further investigation and “more concrete evidence” would be necessary for prosecution.

In addition, the statute of limitations prevents him from filing criminal charges, the prosecutor said.

The possible charges on the table, Luttrull said, are felony theft charges for “the stealing of government property or government funds.” The statute of limitations on most felonies, apart from murder and child molesting, is five years.

“My conclusion was that if crimes were committed … they appeared to have been occurring between 2009 and 2012 and were outside the statute of limitations,” Luttrull said.

For that reason, Luttrull said he has not pursued further investigation into the Old Y renovation or any other failed development projects during the Seybold administration, such as the proposed hockey arena project.

“Once I concluded that what I see here that may have been criminal was barred by the statute of limitations I didn’t … take further action,” Luttrull said. “... At this point this office is not conducting any investigation into this matter. I’ve reviewed what has been done by various organizations including the FBI.”

Luttrull said his office does not direct investigations typically and has few investigative resources to do so, but if they were to receive more materials from law enforcement about the former city administration and the Old Y project they would review them.

While the FBI investigation was in progress in 2013 and 2014, crimes occurring between 2009 and 2012 would have been well within the statute of limitations. However, it’s unclear whether the FBI’s investigative reports were turned over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes federal crimes, including public corruption and white collar crime.

Luttrull said his office did not receive any information from the FBI about the investigation until 2018, after Luttrull requested the documents from them.

Ryan Holmes, public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Northern Indiana, said the office could not confirm or deny the existence of any investigation that did not result in charges being filed.

The C-T contacted the Indianapolis FBI office last week but did not receive a response by the time of print.

The statute of limitations can be extended in cases where there are “acts of concealment” or in cases involving the corruption of public officials.

Luttrull said he doesn’t believe either exception applies.

He said the Indiana courts have narrowed their definition of what counts as concealment and what he saw in the reports would not have met the courts’ standard of the kind or level of concealment necessary to extend the statute of limitations, as he understands it.

The prosecutor said he also didn’t see evidence in the reports provided to him by the FBI that a public official committed a crime that he could have prosecuted.

“I didn’t see proof that I could take into criminal court,” Luttrull said. 

The city is seeking to recover more than $2 million in an ongoing civil lawsuit. Chad Seybold, brother of former Mayor Wayne Seybold and construction manager of the project, as well as First Farmers Bank & Trust and former financial advisors London Witte Group have been named as defendants in the lawsuit. Also named as defendants are the estate of the late developer Michael An and two of his companies.

Incoming prosecutor Rodney Faulk, who takes office in January, said he could not comment on the possibility of pursuing criminal charges against anyone involved in the Old Y project. 

Faulk cited his work for local law firm Kiley Harker & Certain, which represents the city in the litigation against First Farmers Bank & Trust, which began as a separate lawsuit but has been combined with the lawsuit involving Seybold, London Witte and Michael An’s estate and companies. 

But Faulk said on the campaign trail that he is not afraid to go after white collar crime and public corruption.

“The jail was built for everybody,” Faulk said in February. “I’ll prosecute politicians.”