INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– The Office of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard released a report Friday on the internal investigation into the Department of Metropolitan Development Land Bank that revealed 48 properties may be involved in the alleged scheme lead by two now former city employees.
Mayor Ballard had directed Chief of Staff Ryan Vaughn and senior officials with the department of metropolitan development to undertake their review of the Land Bank process.
Both Reginald Walton, the former assistant administrator for the Community Economic Development Division, and John Hawkins, the former senior project manager for the Community Economic Development Division, were arrested for allegedly defrauding the city and accepting bribes and or kickbacks related to the sale of certain abandoned properties from the DMD Indy Land Bank.
Three other people, including the heads of two non-profits, were also indicted.
“Short of having wire taps on people’s personal or access to people’s personal bank records, there is not a way for the city to have known that this was allegedly going on,” said Marc Lotter, spokesperson for Mayor Ballard.
Lotter also said the homeowners who eventually purchased the properties will not be impacted, and the city will not try to take back the properties.
The Indiana Minority AIDS Coalition and New Day Residential Development were named in the report as was Naptown Housing Group, LLC., a for profit firm that Walton is alleged to be a ‘silent partner.’ Investigators claim it benefited from certain transactions.
“The 7,000 people who work for the city and county do their best every day to make our city a better place, make our neighborhoods safer and better places, and the alleged actions of a couple, I hope, would not shake people’s trust in that,” said Lotter.
Commissioners have questioned Indy Land Bank policies and procedures before. Lotter said they have been working on improvements for more than two years.
All Land Bank transactions are currently on hold.
“The Office of the United States Attorney is conducting an ongoing criminal investigation of individuals associated with the City of Indianapolis’ Indy Land Bank program,” said U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett in a statement Friday morning. “Our sole focus is on the prosecution of those defendants who have been indicted by a federal grand jury, as well as the identification and prosecution of other individuals involved in illegal conduct. We will have no public comment as to factual assertions made by any party with regard to this matter.”
The mayor’s office also released the statement, which can be read in its entirety below:
“I want to thank my team for quickly undertaking the process of reviewing hundreds of land bank transactions spanning more than a year. This report documents the land bank process and steps taken by this administration over the past two years to improve land bank policy and operations.
The contents of this review and the discovery of additional property transactions that may be related to the accused will be shared with the U.S. District Attorney’s Office.
The City is also conducting an independent audit of the land bank process and policies. Information from that review will be shared with federal officials and the Metropolitan Development Commission. Once I am satisfied that appropriate polices and safeguards are in place, the City will resume operations of the Land Bank, whose mission of returning dilapidated properties to productive housing stock remains critical to the future of our city.”