A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted a longtime Lake County political figure on two counts of mail fraud in what authorities said was a scheme to steal money from workforce development grants.
The indictment charges Dozier Allen Jr., who was the Calumet Township trustee for more than three decades, and three former deputy trustees with illegally paying themselves $143,000 out of more than $170,000 in grants intended to help train employees in the township during 2000-02.
"The alleged use of welfare-to-work grant funds for personal gain represents an egregious betrayal of the U.S. taxpayer, and of those hopeful individuals for whose benefit the money had been intended," said Gordon S. Heddell, inspector general for the U.S. Department of Labor.
Allen, 75, has denied wrongdoing.
He was the chief financial officer for the township, which includes the city of Gary, and he was defeated by current trustee Mary Elgin in the 2002 election.
Last year, when then-Gary Mayor Scott King resigned, Allen was appointed interim mayor. Allen lost in a Democratic Party caucus two weeks later to Rudy Clay, who is now the mayor. A telephone message seeking comment from Allen was left by The Associated Press at his Gary office.
Last year, Allen said he and the three deputy trustees were paid periodically by checks, most for $1,000, out of the grants. The checks were in addition to their salaries.
"It was done with the permission of the governing body," Allen said at the time. "It was not an exceptional procedure."
However, the indictment alleges almost $171,000 in grants from Ivy Tech State College were deposited into a checking account by one the deputy trustees in the name of Calumet Township in November 2000 and that the only checks ever written on the account were to Allen and the three deputy trustees.
Allen is charged with receiving eight checks totaling $28,000, with the three deputy trustees receiving between $26,000 and $51,000.
Interestingly, Allen doesn't dispute receiving the money in question. He says it was simply additional salary approved by the township's governing body. I've heard some make the argument that Lawrence Township Trustee Mike Hobbs could avoid a conviction for the $500 petty theft charge Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi has brought against him by simply saying it was emergency relief money he was authorized by law to give out to township residents in need. In this case, it just happened to be the township trustee who needed the assistance with the payment of his rent. At least Hobbs supports the consolidation and elimination of township government.