May 17, 2013: Public Corruption Indictments Returned
Food and Drug Administration
Office of Criminal Investigations
U.S. Department of Justice Press Release
For Immediate Release
May 17, 2013
United States Attorney
Northern District of Indiana
Contact: Mary Hatton
Hammond, Indiana - United States Attorney David Capp announced that three indictments were returned as a result of investigations by the public corruption task force.
Vahan Kelerchian, 53, of Richboro, Pennsylvania, is charged in a nine count indictment. Kelerchian is the principal owner and operator of Armament Services International, a company located in the Philadelphia area engaged in the sales of firearms, primarily through the internet. The indictment alleges that Kelerchian, from November 2008 to January 2010, conspired with Joseph Kumstar and Ronald Slusser to make false statements concerning the acquisition of firearms. Kumstar and Slusser are both former Lake County Sheriff deputies who were indicted for this conduct in September 2010. Both have since plead guilty, are awaiting sentencing and cooperating with the United States Attorney's Office.
Essentially, the indictment alleges that Kelerchian, Kumstar and Slusser utilized the Lake County Sheriff's Department to acquire approximately 71 machine guns representing that those firearms were to be owned and utilized by the sheriff's department for law enforcement purposes. In actuality, it is alleged that Kelerchian, Kumstar and Slusser acquired these firearms for themselves and broke the firearms down into certain component parts and sold those parts at considerable profit.
The indictment also alleges a conspiracy among the same individuals to defraud the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concerning the acquisition of approximately 74 restricted laser sights which can only be obtained by law enforcement or the military. Similar misrepresentations concerning the acquisition and use by the Lake County Sheriff's department are alleged in this count.
Kelerchian is also charged with conspiring with Joseph Kumstar to provide the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives with letters purportedly from the sheriff's department requesting demonstrations of machine guns when in fact they knew there would be no such demonstrations.
The indictment also charges that on or about July 31, 2008, Kelerchian gave Kumstar a certain firearm intending to award or influence Kumstar in connection with transactions concerning the Lake County Sheriff's department. The final count of the indictment alleges a conspiracy by Kelerchain, Kumstar and Slusser to conduct financial transactions involving the proceeds of specified unlawful activity.
Roman Perez, 41, of Crown Point, Indiana, is charged with one count of making false statements under oath on a tax return and one count of making a false statement in a bankruptcy proceeding. The Indictment alleges that Perez understated his total taxable income for 2007 by approximately $110,108.00, of which approximately $80,000 constituted payments from both the Treasurer of Lake County, Indiana, and the Lake County Sheriffâ€™s Commissary Fund, to Roman Art Inc., a graphic design business owned and operated by Perez; and that Perez understated his gross income for the year 2009 by an amount in excess of $40,000 in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. The United States Attorney's Office will today file a plea agreement wherein Perez has agreed to plead guilty to these charges and will cooperate with the United States Attorney's Office.
Current Lake County Surveyor George Van Til, 65, of Merrillville, Indiana, is charged with six counts of wire fraud and two counts of obstruction of justice.
The indictment alleges that Van Til, beginning in or about November 2007 and continuing through December 2012, devised a scheme to defraud Lake County of money and property by utilizing county employees to perform personal services and political services so that Van Til would be re-elected as Lake County Surveyor.
The indictment also alleges that Van Til directed an employee to remove a hard drive from a Lake County computer and to replace it with another hard drive. Van Til gave that employee $100 cash in order to purchase the replacement hard drive from a local retailer. Van Til was concerned that federal authorities might come to the Surveyorâ€™s office and confiscate the hard drive.
The indictment further alleges that Van Til told that same employee "And by the way, if by some chance down the line there's ever a conversation, we never had these conversations."
Van Til's alleged conduct with respect to this particular employee forms the basis for the two obstruction of justice counts.
United States Attorney Capp advised that these indictments were the result of the ongoing investigative effort by the public corruption task force. That task force is comprised of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, the Indiana State Police and the United States Attorney's Office. In the Kelerchian indictment, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Food and Drug were principally involved. Capp thanked these agencies and departments for their continued cooperative efforts in the important area of public corruption. Capp stated, "As I have said before, our public corruption effort is ongoing and we will continue to investigate and, where appropriate, seek federal indictments against those who abuse the public trust."
These cases have been assigned to and are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Philip Benson, Gary Bell and Joshua Kolar.
The United States Attorney's Office emphasized that an Indictment is merely an allegation and that all persons charged are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.