Color me surprised

In a shocking turn of events, a politician abused campaign funds. I know it’s hard to believe, but some politicians are shitheels. According to a report from the Chicago Tribune, Whiting, Indiana Mayor Joseph Stahura and his wife, Diane, took money from his campaign account and used it to gamble at regional casinos. He has been charged with wire fraud and filing a false income tax return.

Knowing the jig is up, the mayor entered into a plea agreement, saying he would plead guilty to both charges. Diane did the same for a wire fraud charge.

In a statement, United States Attorney Thomas Kirsch II said that for over five years, Stahura “illegally used his campaign funds for personal activities and expenditures and lied about it on his publicly filed campaign reports and tax returns.”

The 64-year-old Stahura has been mayor of Whiting since 2004 and said he plans to resign shortly. He faces up to 23 years in prison.

Couldn’t wait to hit the tables

In addition to gambling with campaign funds, the Stahuras used the money to pay down credit card debt and support their adult daughter from February 2014 through last year.

Like any political family, the couple would hold fundraising events and bring in donations to their campaign fund, aptly named “Committee to Elect Joe Stahura.” But instead of keeping the money there and using it for campaign activities, Diane would transfer the money to their personal bank account.

The very same day the money would be transferred, the Stahuras would head to casinos – some in Indiana, others in Iowa or Michigan – and gamble it up.

Obviously, the U.S. Attorney has receipts. In one instance, on Christmas Eve 2014, Diane transferred $1,500 from the campaign’s bank account to their personal bank account and went gambling the same day. On March 29, 2016, Joseph withdrew $503.95 from an ATM in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and gambled at a casino.

On June 9, 2014, they transferred $9,002.03 to pay a credit card bill. And on February 5, 2019, they transferred $1,000 from the campaign’s account to their daughter’s bank account.

Naturally, the press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office says that Stahura completed campaign reports “with false and misleading information and by omitting material information from the reports.”

Obviously didn’t put stolen money on tax returns

The filing of a false tax return comes from the plain fact that Stahura didn’t report the stolen money as income. I mean, it seems like if someone steals money, they are automatically going to get hit with a false tax return charge. It would be mighty impressive if they somehow reported the income without it getting noticed.

On top of that, Stahura severely overstated a “loan repayment amount” to his campaign by $40,000.

“I care deeply about our family and do not hesitate to help when they need it,” Stahura said in a statement. “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.”

“….ultimately the decision to accept the plea agreement is in the best interest of my family and the citizens of Whiting,” he added.

Lake County Democratic Party Chairman James Wieser said there was “never a hint of wrongdoing” in Stahura’s career, adding, “To hear the problems and difficulties he’s had personally, it just sadness me. I don’t justify it or condone it, I’m just sad.”

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