Sunday, October 17, 2010

Brizzi Sued By OmniSource

The continuing saga over giant scrap metal dealer OmniSource takes a strange twist after the business filed a lawsuit against Brizzi in a Marion County Superior Court seeking return of hundreds of thousands of dollars investigators seized after a raid on the business' scrap yards in Indianapolis two years ago. Investigators accused OmniSource, which employed nearly 50 off-duty police officers as security at its scrap yards, of knowingly purchasing stolen metal. Brizzi blames his former campaign chairman, Barnes & Thornburg's Larry Mackey, of orchestrating the lawsuit against him. The Star's Vic Ryckaert discusses the lawsuit in a weekend news story, but his story doesn't say what law firm or attorneys filed the suit against Brizzi:

Recycling company OmniSource is asking a judge to force Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi to return more than $277,000 authorities seized two years ago as part of a probe into allegations that the company knowingly bought stolen metal . . .

In OmniSource's complaint, the Fort Wayne-based subsidiary of Steel Dynamics claims that a long-running grand jury investigation into criminal allegations against the company is a sham drummed up "to further advance Brizzi's political profile."

"After almost 20 months it has become clear that this action by the prosecutor has never really been about a legitimate concern about metal theft in Marion County or about a desire for accuracy or justice," OmniSource President Mark Millett said in a news release.

"It has become quite apparent that the prosecutor's real motivation was about headlines and a money grab, threatening OmniSource with forfeiture of all of OmniSource's Indianapolis facilities."

Brizzi indicated that he believed the action was directed by OmniSource's lead attorney, Larry Mackey. Mackey, ironically, served as Brizzi's campaign chairman when he was elected to his first term as prosecutor in 2002.
You may recall a report by the IBJ's Cory Schouten last April about how the prosecutor's office failed to bring a civil action within one year of seizing the money during the raid on OmniSource's scrap yards, a prerequisite for the government to claim money seized during a lawful search conducted as part of a criminal investigation according to OmniSource's attorney, Larry Mackey. That set off finger-pointing between Brizzi's office and Greg Garrison, whose law firm had been hired by the prosecutor's office to handle civil forfeiture actions on a contingency fee basis over whose fault it was that no civil forfeiture action had been filed. The contract with Garrison's office was negotiated by David Weyser, who like Brizzi, has faced questions of misconduct in the prosecutor's office. Garrison contended he was not entitled to any cut of money law enforcement seized during an investigation; only money recovered in separate civil forfeiture actions he brought on the government's behalf, one he said at the time he intended to bring against OmniSource. Brizzi told reporters in June that a grand jury continued to investigate OmniSource but no criminal charges have been filed to date. OmniSource's lawsuit accuses both Brizzi and Garrison of violating the law and engaging in professional misconduct. Ryckaert reports:

OmniSource claims that Brizzi illegally hired private attorney Greg Garrison to oversee the forfeiture of $277,508 seized from the company during raids on six scrap yards in February 2009 and paid him a portion of the forfeiture.

The lawsuit claims Garrison could have earned hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars if, as he allegedly threatened, the company was forced to forfeit all its facilities in Marion and Hendricks counties.

The company claims Brizzi and Garrison are running afoul of laws, the Constitution and ethical guidelines for attorneys.

In response to the allegations, Brizzi told Ryckaert that Mackey was overwrought. "I'm going to reserve comment until I see a complaint," Brizzi said. "It does appear that Mr. Mackey is overwrought." This rift seems very strange considering Brizzi's close relationship to Mackey, who has been a frequent guest on Brizzi's weekend radio talk show host, Crime Beat, on WIBC-FM. Shortly after the raid of the OmniSource scrap yards, Mackey's former law partner at Barnes & Thornburg, then-Public Safety Director Scott Newman, said neither police nor OmniSource had engaged in any criminal wrongdoing before the investigation had even been concluded. From the beginning of this investigation, it has been weighted down with conflicts of interest among the key investigators. I guess nothing should surprise me at this point.


Paul K. Ogden said...

"Garrison contended he was not entitled to any cut of money law enforcement seized during an investigation; only money recovered in separate civil forfeiture actions he brought on the government's behalf, one he said at the time he intended to bring against OmniSource."

I don't know what Garrison is talking about. If the property was used in connection with a crime, it is subject to civil forfeiture. He's trying to make a distinction that doesn't exist.

I have Garrison's contract. It specifically gives him the right to go after Omnisource for civil forfeiture. Why he didn't do it, I don't know.

Regardless, once the rock start getting flipped over on civil forfeiture, you're going to see a lot of people getting in trouble. You give people access to money with no accountability, and there are bound to be ethical problems. I expect some of the biggest problems uncovered to be in Marion County. The attitude of the civil forfeiture section in Marion County is that they're above the law and can do whatever they want.

James said...

So, to look at this from a different perspective:

The entire Omnisource deal stinks. Thousands of people had their air conditioning condensers cut off the side of their homes, catalytic converters cut off of their cars, siding, gutters, even city manhole covers stolen and sold to Omnisource for scrap - costing citizens thousands of dollars with each incident.

Omnisource knew it was buying stolen stuff and refused to put into place even basic protection (like paying with a check instead of cash, documenting the id of the seller, etc.)
Instead they hire IMPD officers to look the other way.

Brizzi's office is either corrupt or incompetent or both - and doesn't file paperwork in time. At the same time, nothing significant comes from the IMPD investigation of itself (surprise).

And citizens are still getting their air-conditioning and catalytic converters stolen.

rightisrght said...

Ok say they did know the metal was stolen, that dosnt give the prosecuters office the right to turn around and still from OmniSource! The forfeiture action was put into place for law enforcement and education to be founded with property and money seized in drug raids, not so small buisness owners can be robbed by attorney's trying to cash in.