News and Tribune

Clark County

December 26, 2011

Federal drug-related indictments increased in 2011

U.S. Attorney’s attention turns to white-collar crimes

NEW ALBANY — U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett said his office will increase its focus on white-collar crimes and corruption by elected officials in 2012.

The statement comes after several recent high-profile corruption cases. The owner and CEO of a Fishers-based investment company agreed to plead guilty to securities fraud last week for defrauding 67 investors of more than $7 million over an eight-year period, according to prosecutors.

An Indianapolis councilman was indicted Tuesday for wire fraud and money laundering. Another Indianapolis councilman and police officer was sentenced earlier this month to 40 months in prison for bribery and extortion.

“These types of public integrity and corruption cases will be a top priority in the next year,” Hogsett said.

Hogsett said he does not believe there is widespread corruption, but he has seen enough to place these cases near the top of his agenda.

Hogsett stopped by the News and Tribune office in New Albany last week to discuss the results of his Violent Crime Initiative. Through the first 11 months in November, major drug trafficking indictments increased more than 100 percent compared to two years ago, and drug trafficking seizures increased seven-fold compared to 2010.

There were 14 felony possession of firearm charges in 2010 compared to 96 so far in 2011.

“This year, our focus has been on helping local officials deal with gangs, drugs and guns,” Hogsett said.

As U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, Hogsett spends much of his time focusing on Marion County, which accounts for more than half the homicides in the 60-county district. However, Hogsett said he is as committed to Clark and Floyd counties as he is Indianapolis.

“I have made a concerted effort to be present in Clark and Floyd counties,” Hogsett said. “I don’t see the role of United States Attorney as sitting in your office in the capitol.”

Hogsett said he has been to New Albany or Jeffersonville at least once a month since taking office. He meets regularly with local law enforcement and prosecutors and has taken rides with police officers during their patrols.

Hogsett, the former Indiana secretary of state and Democratic party chairman, has also reached out to the media far more than his predecessors. Raising the profile of the office has been a priority since his appointment by President Barack Obama last year. He believes doing so reassures the public and is a deterrent to crime.

Following his confirmation, friends approached Hogsett and asked him what the U.S. Attorney does. Most law-abiding citizens do not understand the differences between federal and state courts, but criminals do, he says.

“Criminals know they do not want to see a federal prosecutor,” Hogsett said.

Federal courts oftentimes offer stiffer sentences as well as less opportunity for pretrial release or early release from prison.

Hogsett said his office has also reduced spending during the same time that drug and weapon prosecutions have increased. From Fiscal Year 2010 to 2011, spending decreased from $7.93 million to $7.85 million reversing a five-year trend of increasing office expenditures.

Meanwhile, total criminal and civil collections for the U.S. Attorney’s Office exceeded $16 million in Fiscal Year 2011.

The U.S. Department of Justice is under a hiring freeze meaning Hogsett’s office is short several prosecutors. He hopes that freeze will at least partially be lifted next year.

There have been numerous federal cases involving local residents in the last year.

• Aaron Richey, 32, of Underwood, was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in prison for his role in a marijuana distribution conspiracy. Officers found several packages of marijuana, 14 firearms and a bullet-proof vest during a search of his home. He was one of 12 men charged.

• Three Washington County teenagers were indicted in May for selling guns stolen from the Triple G Gun Gallery in Greenville.

• A 32-year-old man from El Salvador found residing in Clark County was indicted for unlawful re-entry by an alien who is a convicted felon.

• Gary Booth, 46, of Jeffersonville, was charged in July with transportation and possession of child pornography.

• Gregory D. Lacey, 38, of Jeffersonville, was sentenced in July to 100 months in prison for transportation and possession of child pornography.

• Thomas E. Barron, 49, of Jeffersonville, was sentenced in September to 114 months in prison for transportation and possession of child pornography.

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