Update: A federal court sentenced Joseph Stahura on January 13 to two years’ probation and one year home detention in connection with his wire fraud and false income tax return charges. He must also pay a $7,500 fine.
Mayor admits to wrongdoing
Whiting, Indiana Mayor Joseph Stahura has been charged with filing a false income tax return and wire fraud. The charges relate to numerous incidents dating back to 2014, when Stahura and his wife took money from his campaign’s bank account and used it to gamble in a casino on the same day.
illegally used his campaign funds for personal activities and expenditures”
The 64-year-old mayor has entered into a plea agreement, pleading guilty to both of the charges. In a statement, United States Attorney Thomas Kirsch II said that the mayor “illegally used his campaign funds for personal activities and expenditures and lied about it on his publicly filed campaign reports and tax returns” for over five years.
Court documents indicate that a prison sentence of up to 23 years is a possibility. The mayor’s wife, Diane Stahura, has entered a similar plea agreement that acknowledges that the prosecutors have sufficient evidence for a wire fraud charge.
Pattern of raiding campaign coffers
Between February 2014 and 2019, the couple used about $255,000 from the “Committee to Elect Joe Stahura” fund for different types of personal expenditures. They included gambling, supporting their daughter financially, and paying down credit card debt.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune, the money often came from fundraising events and donations from local businesses and people. After receiving the funds, the money would be transferred by Diane Stahura into a personal bank account. The pair would withdraw cash together or individually and go to the casino to gamble. Some of these casinos were in Indiana, while others were in Michigan and Iowa.
In a statement, Mayor Stahura apologized and accepted responsibility for his actions. He also gave assurances to Whiting residents that he did not touch any of the city’s money. Stahura will be resigning as mayor in the coming days.
decision to accept the plea agreement is in the best interest of my family and the citizens of Whiting”
He sent a message to all of his supporters: “Thank you for all your support over the years – it has been my honor to serve the public, and ultimately the decision to accept the plea agreement is in the best interest of my family and the citizens of Whiting.”
Stahura has been an elected official for the past 35 years and has been mayor since 2004.