Hogsett Announces Public Corruption Charges Against Former City of Bloomington Public Official
Senior Project Manager Alleged to Have Embezzled More Than $800,000 from Bloomington Taxpayers
|U.S. Attorney’s Office March 12, 2014|
INDIANAPOLIS—Joseph H. Hogsett, the United States Attorney, announced today that federal criminal charges have been filed against a former City of Bloomington senior project manager. Specifically, Justin Wykoff, 43, has been charged with 24 counts of embezzlement and one count of conspiracy. Two other accomplices, Roger D. Hardin, 51, and his son, Zachary, 25, both of Bedford, have also been charged.
It is alleged that the three men bilked hundreds of thousands of dollars from public works projects by submitting and approving fraudulent invoices. Wykoff was arrested early this morning at his home by federal agents. The Hardins were also arrested and face charges of conspiracy to commit a federal crime.
The criminal complaint alleges that from May 13, 2011 to February 14, 2014, acting as the manager of engineering services and, thereafter, as a senior project manager for the City of Bloomington, Wykoff approved false invoices which caused the city to pay more than $800,000 for work on concrete projects that was never completed at all or actually done by other construction companies. In furtherance of this scheme, the co-conspirators sent false invoices to the city for payment to Reliable Concrete Construction (RCC), a company owned by the Hardins. Once paid by the city, the money was then deposited into an account held by Roger and Zachary Hardin.
The complaint further alleges that the Hardins would then make cash payments to Wykoff. Invoices were presented and paid at least 24 times over a two and one half year period. Wykoff received 33 percent of each fraudulent invoice. The cash returned to Wykoff were alleged kickbacks for his approval of the invoices. The case involved projects for concrete work to be performed on Rogers Street and College Avenue. The investigation is ongoing and the final amount of loss has not yet been determined.
These arrests come at a time when the United States Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have significantly increased efforts to root out public corruption. In April of 2012, Hogsett announced the formation of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Public Integrity Working Group (PIWG), a collaborative effort between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to rid Indiana of the “culture of corruption” that all too often rears its ugly head.
Since its creation, the PIWG has charged 30 public officials for various crimes committed at the local, state and federal levels. Ten of the 30 charged are scheduled for trial in this upcoming year. Individual defendants include two former Indianapolis city-county councilors, the former chief deputy prosecutor of the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, local police officers and sheriff’s deputies, township level officials, employees of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, as well as employees of the Internal Revenue Service and the United States Postal Service.
“Our message has been consistent, but bears repeating: it doesn’t matter what your politics are or who you know,” Hogsett noted, “if you violate the public trust, our investigators will find you, will investigate you and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will then prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert A. Jones stated, “Contract cheating in the form of bribery and conspiracy is public corruption that violates the trust of the community and unfairly burdens honest taxpayers. The FBI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to preserve the integrity of public contracting.”
According to Steven DeBrota, Senior Litigation Counsel for the United States Attorney’s Office and who is prosecuting the case for the government, Wykoff could face up to 10 years on each count if convicted. The Hardins could face five years if convicted.
The investigation is being conducted by the FBI and the Bloomington Police Department, with assistance from the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office.
A complaint is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which time the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.