U.S. Attorney's Office
Northern District of Indiana
(219) 937-5500
December 19, 2014

Calumet Township Trustee Mary Elgin Indicted for Fraud, Extortion, Tax Offenses, and Making False Statements

HAMMOND, IN—The United States Attorney’s Office announced an indictment against Mary Elgin, the Calumet Township Trustee, alleging fraud, extortion, tax offenses and making false statements to investigating agents. Three other key employees in the trustee’s office, Ethel Shelton, Steven Hunter and Alex Wheeler, were also named in the fraud and extortion offenses.

United States Attorney David Capp stated, “The essence of this indictment is the wrongful use of public employees and public facilities for private political gain.”

The indictment alleges that Elgin and the other defendants conspired to commit wire fraud by utilizing employees of the trustee’s office, while these employees were being paid a salary from public funds, to work on Elgin’s fundraising and re-election efforts. In addition, the indictment alleges that these defendants conspired to deprive the citizens of Calumet Township of their right to the honest and faithful services of these defendants. Additionally, the indictment alleges these defendants also conspired to extort trustee office employees by forcing them to purchase political fundraising tickets.

This indictment also includes four (4) additional charges against Mary Elgin alone. The indictment charges Elgin with: (1) two tax offenses for failing to file her federal tax returns for calendar year 2012 and 2013 despite having earned in excess of $100,000 in each of those years; (2) providing false information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation on issues material to the federal investigation; and (3) attempting to extort a vendor who sought to do business with the trustee’s office.

Elgin, age 70 of Gary, Indiana, began serving as the Calumet Township Trustee in January 2003. She was re-elected to four year terms in 2006 and 2010. Shortly after taking office, the indictment alleges that Elgin installed individuals who directed her campaign into lucrative supervisory positions within the office, without regard to qualifications for those positions.

Shelton, age 69 of Gary, Indiana, was hired as Elgin’s personal secretary. The indictment alleges that Shelton, while on trustee time, collected money from employees from the sale of political fundraising tickets and kept detailed lists of which employees did or did not purchase the fundraising tickets.

Hunter, age 48 of Chicago, Illinois, Elgin’s son, was hired as Deputy of Information Systems and Technology. The indictment alleges that Hunter, on trustee time, distributed fundraising tickets and collected money from employees from the sale of political fundraising tickets.

Wheeler, age 64 of Gary, Indiana, was Elgin’s co-campaign manager and was hired as the Deputy of Job Search Works. The indictment alleges that Wheeler, on trustee time, distributed political fundraising tickets to trustee employees.

This indictment was the result of an extensive investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service and Indiana State Police. This case has been assigned to and will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Philip Benson.

United States Attorney Capp concluded by stating, “We have a very active and experienced public corruption team of agents and Assistant United States Attorneys. Our efforts are ongoing. We will continue to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by public officials, including tax offenses and the wrongful use of public employees for private gain.”

Citizens who have any information about any perceived wrongdoing are urged to call the Federal Bureau of Investigation at (219) 769-3719. All calls will be treated confidentially.

It is expected that Elgin and the other defendants will appear in federal court on Monday, December 22, 2014 for their initial appearance.

The United States Attorney’s Office emphasized that an Indictment is merely an allegation and not proof of guilt. All persons charged are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

If convicted in court, any specific sentence to be imposed will be determined by the judge after a consideration of the federal sentencing statutes and federal sentencing guidelines.

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