Federal charges filed against sixth person in alleged Indy Land Bank scheme

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U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett announced the return of an indictment charging Reggie Walton and Mark Harsley with conspiring to defraud Indianapolis taxpayers with a wire fraud scheme involving a city mowing contract.

This follows the indictment of Walton and four other people connected to the Indianapolis Land Bank program on charges they engaged in wire fraud and bribery.

The US Attorney’s Office claims Harsley is an employee with the state, specifically the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

“Kickbacks, bribes, and fraud. These are words we have heard too often lately to describe the actions of these particular public officials,” said US Attorney Joe Hogsett.

According to the grand jury indictment, that was unsealed, Harsley promised Walton kickbacks if he used his position to help him out. Harsley began submitting invoices and collecting payments for his allegedly corruptly obtained city mowing contract in the summer of 2013. Federal officials claim Walton helped him get it.

“They are cutting lawns so the properties are marketable, so it’s directly the same investigation into the activities of the Land Bank,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Blackington.

The Indy Land Bank is a program designed to get vacant, abandoned and tax delinquent homes in the right hands through area non-profits to help rebuild struggling neighborhoods. Walton had been running the program, and according to federal officials, running a scheme.

Among the group first indicted includes another now former city employee, John Hawkins, the heads of area non-profits and a friend of Walton’s.

“Public corruption remains the FBI’s top criminal priority, and it’s appropriate today to say my office has created a new pubic corruption task force,” said Robert Jones, the FBI Special Agent in Charge in the Southern District of Indiana.

Jones said the task force will be in operation beginning in January.

“This culture of corruption is stealing this communities future. As law enforcement partners, we have had enough. No more theft. No more fraud. No more bribery or extortion. No more business as usual,” said Hogsett.

The new wire fraud charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

A trial date for the first four men charged in the alleged scheme was set for late February, but it is expected to be delayed following a request for a continuance.