Northwestern Indiana mayor set to face federal trial over withdrawals from campaign fund



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HAMMOND, Indiana — The mayor of a northwestern Indiana city is set to go to trial over federal charges alleging that he and his wife took more than $20,000 from his campaign account in order to cover casino gambling losses.

Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist and his wife Deborah Soderquist are charged with conspiracy, wire fraud and filing false tax returns. The trial is scheduled to begin Monday.

Prosecutors say in court filings that the couple made more than 40 ATM withdrawals from the mayor's campaign fund within 24 hours of their visits to casinos from 2010 to 2012. Prosecutors contend the couple lost more than $160,000 at casinos during a six-year period ending in 2013, The (Munster) Times and the (Merrillville) Post-Tribune reported.

Federal prosecutors plan to present receipts that the couple gave to investigators that supposedly explained how money from the mayor's campaign fund was used, but they say those receipts were an attempt to hide that they had used it on gambling trips.

"The defendants held out the Campaign Committee to donors as one thing — a fund meant to help re-elect Mayor Soderquist — and treated the Campaign Committee money completely at odds with that representation," prosecutors said in court documents.

Defense attorney Scott King has said Keith Soderquist might be responsible for sloppy reporting of campaign finances, but that he and his wife did nothing illegal.

King, who was once mayor of Gary, said the couple's withdrawals were reimbursements to themselves for political expenses and that no fraud occurred.

Keith Soderquist has remained mayor of the 13,000-person city just east of Gary since he and his wife were indicted in April 2014. He was first elected mayor in 2008 but was badly beaten in May's Democratic primary, ending his bid for a third term.

The mayor and his wife each face one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of filing a false income tax return.

The jury trial in U.S. District Court in Hammond is expected to last four to five days.

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