Friday, July 21, 2006

Jewell Harris Indicted

Jewell Harris, the owner of the Gary Steelheads of the CBA and a former top political advisor to former Gary Mayor Scott King, has been indicted by the feds for allegedly defrauding the city of Gary out of $1.5 million. The AP reports:

A prominent Gary businessman who once was former Mayor Scott King's top political adviser was indicted Friday by a federal grand jury on charges that he defrauded the city of more than $1.5 million.

Jewell Harris Sr., 66, owner of the Gary Steelheads of the Continental Basketball Association, is accused of billing both the city and a contractor for the same work on the city's $45 million baseball stadium.

Harris was released Friday on an unsecured $20,000 bond.

A telephone message seeking comment was left Friday by The Associated Press at Harris' office at the Steelheads. A call to another of his businesses, Enterprise Trucking and Waste Hauling, went unanswered.

Harris has previously denied any wrongdoing, saying no one had ever accused him of breaking any laws. But there had been indications that he was the target of a federal investigation . . .

King resigned in March after 11 years as mayor, saying he needed to earn more money to pay for his children's college. King said last month that records on construction of The Steel Yard baseball stadium were among the thousands of pages of documents that investigators asked him to turn over.

King, who split with Harris in 2003 in a dispute over an initiative the mayor was pushing, said he was saddened to hear about the indictment. King said it is embarrassing to him that someone who twice managed his mayoral campaigns has been indicted.

"From everything I know, it clearly indicates this was somebody out on his own for himself _ if these allegations are true _ not on behalf of an administration, or a city or an organization," he said.

When the downtown ballpark was being built in 2001, Harris was a lobbyist and consultant for the city and represented King in dealings with city departments and boards and outside agencies.

The indictment alleges that Enterprise was already under contract with the city to haul demolition material from sites in the city, when he "compelled" a vendor to enter into a contract for his company to do the same work.

"This is another sad chapter in what seems to be an ongoing abuse of the public's trust in northwest Indiana," said Joseph Van Bokkelen, the U.S. attorney for northern Indiana.

Does Bokkelen have King in his sights next?

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