Tuesday, July 12, 2011

OmniSource Buys Its Way Out Of Criminal Case

[UPDATED] If you're a multi-million dollar company represented by a politically-connected law firm, you can buy your way out of any serious criminal charge in Marion County. That's the message Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry is sending out tonight in a deal he has reached with OmniSource, a company that employed more than 50 off-duty police officers and was indicted by a grand jury for conspiring to buy millions of dollars worth of stolen scrap metal. Under a deal struck with the giant scrap metal dealer, the company will pay $1 million $300,000 into an education unspecified fund and will [not] be allowed to once again employ your public safety officers at its scrap yards doing security work. Fox 59 News' Russ McQuaid had these details about this deal that stinks to high heaven, which have apparently been revised substantially after the details were first aired earlier today:
The case against a chain of OmniSource scrap yards has been resolved with no criminal charges. A seven-figure settlement hasalso been reached.
OmniSource buys scrap metal at six locations around Indianapolis.
In 2009, then Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi claimed OmniSource knew it was buying stolen goods and that off duty police officers helped. 
When he was prosecutor, Brizzi claimed OmniSource was knowingly involved in a criminal enterprise and guilty of buying millions of dollars of stolen metal throughout Indiana every year. A Marion County grand jury agreed, indicting the company on three counts of corrupt business influence and five counts of attempted receipt of stolen property.
A total of 51 metro police officers who worked part-time at OmniSource had their work permits pulled and were looking at possible criminal charges.
Now, a source indicates the cops will be cleared and OmniSource will establish a $1 million fund for education and a study and will be able to rehire and retrain the officers.
OmniSource claimed its prosecution was all about generating headlines and fueled by a possible money grab by Brizzi and his office. The Prosecutor’s Office would have received millions of dollars in forfeiture funds if the scrap metal dealer was shut down.
Brizzi's successor, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry is expected to announce the deal tomorrow.
The audacity of this corrupt deal is beyond anything Carl Brizzi was accused of doing during his eight years as Marion Co. Prosecutor. Let's remind folks of what went on here. The largest scrap metal dealer in the state goes out and hires more than 50 off-duty police officers to provide security work for its scrap yards. A commanding district officer provides preferential treatment to the scheduling of police officers who work for OmniSource, in effect putting the scrap metal dealers' time and use of our police officers ahead of their policing work for the public they are sworn to serve. Just by coincidence, one of the off-duty police officers working for OmniSource was heading up undercover investigations targeting competitors of OmniSource. Several of those small-time scrap metal dealers were busted, prosecuted and jailed for knowingly purchasing stolen metal products and put out of business. At the same time, a task force of federal, state and local law enforcement officers uncovers large volumes of stolen scrap metal purchased at OmniSource's scrap yards while there were off-duty police officers working at their facilities.

After a lengthy grand jury investigation, the company is indicted on multiple charges related to the purchase of millions of dollars worth of stolen scrap metal. The company's lawyer, Larry Mackey of Barnes & Thornburg, who once served as campaign chairman for former Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, whose office brought the charges, attacked Brizzi for bringing the charges. OmniSource then filed a lawsuit against Brizzi seeking the return of assets of $277,000 seized during raids conducted on the company's scrap yards. OmniSource's lawyer accused Brizzi of bringing the charges against the company to grab headlines and as a money grab.

During the course of the investigation, Mackey tried to use his clout to get the lead investigator on the case fired, if not demoted for revealing facts of the case to the media. In particular, Mackey was pissed off at a report that appeared in Platts Steel Market Daily.  IMPD Maj. Chris Boomershine told industry newspaper Platts Steel Markets Daily in February 2009 that OmniSource kept documents on how to avoid antitrust violations, hired off-duty IMPD officers to target competitors and bought cars altered to appear stolen from undercover police officers. Here's some of my earlier reporting on the details of what that investigation learned:

Four days before IMPD executed search warrants on OmniSource's scrap yards in Indianapolis in February, 2009, investigators learned that an OmniSource scrap yard in Marion County purchased 45,204 pounds of stolen lead ingots valued at $40,000. The lead has been purchased by Johnson Company, an Indianapolis-based company, from Gopher Resources, a Michigan company. The lead was supposed to be transported by Freight Master. Investigators learned that a Freight Master supervisor had noticed that the shipment was still on their lot and was long over due to be delivered to Johnson Company. The Freight Master driver, who apparently believed the shipment was so long over due that no one would miss it, took the load of lead to one of the OmniSource locations to sell it. At the OmniSource location in question, the driver presented a shipping receipt clearly stating that the shipment was purchased from Gopher and was to be delivered to Johnson. Because the driver was using a Freight Master truck, OmniSource cut a check for $8,100 for the $40,000 shipment to Freight Master.
What investigators say happened next is extraordinary. The Freight Master driver allegedly told the OmniSource employee to make the check out to him personally. Shockingly, the OmniSource employee is alleged to have done just that. By the time investigators served search warrants on all OmniSource locations in Indianapolis four days later for receiving stolen property, the stolen lead shipment had been moved to OmniSource's Ft. Wayne facility. The day after police served search warrants on OmniSource, all of the information, including pictures and copies of the shipping receipt and check written directly to the driver, was forwarded through the company's chain of command to the company's vice president in Ft. Wayne. Despite being made aware by this point of the stolen lead purchase, the vice president failed to notify police of the purchase or file a police report concerning the stolen lead. Instead, the vice president sent all of the information back down the chain of command to the company's head of security with a cryptic note, “FYI”.
The head of OmniSource's security also failed to make a police report. Instead, the security chief for the company allegedly told Johnson Company personnel that he could not make a police report because OmniSource was not "a victim." Unbelievably, the head of OmniSource's security allegedly told Johnson Company personnel that the company could not get back their shipment until OmniSource had been paid the $8,100 it had paid for the obviously stolen property. Later, as pressure on OmniSource picked up, the company reportedly allowed Johnson Company to pick up the lead shipment order without paying the $8,100. OmniSource reportedly fired the employee who purchased the stolen lead; however, a source close to the investigation says investigators believe OmniSource has a history of moving employees who commit these types of violations to another location instead of firing them. Bear in mind that all of these activities occurred undetected while your police officers were working within the company's scrap yards.
After all of this, the company and the police officers are actually being rewarded for their actions under the deal Curry has brokered. The criminal charges go away, and a new education fund is set up to be used to train police officers to work off duty once again at its scrap yards. You should come away from this entire ordeal with the absolute worst opinion of our criminal justice system. There are clearly two criminal justice systems in this country: one for the common folks and a special system for the wealthy and politically-connected. So much for Curry's pledge to restore public confidence in the prosecutor's office.

UPDATE: Fox 59 News pulled McQuaid's story on the deal reached with OmniSource just minutes ago after he first reported it during the 4:00 p.m. news broadcast. Apparently, OmniSource will pay $300,000, but it will get back the $277,000 in assets seized during the raids that the prosecutor's office sought to claim through a forfeiture action. McQuaid now says the company will not be allowed to re-employ off-duty IMPD officers. WRTV's Rafael Sanchez also reported on a deal being reached to drop the charges. His story says:

The Marion County Prosecutor's Office is expected to announce Wednesday morning it will drop criminal charges against the city's largest metal recycler, OmniSource.
The company has been at the center of controversy for the last two years after it was accused of profiting from the collection of stolen scrap metal, 6News' Rafael Sanchez reported.
In October 2010, then-Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi filed eight felony charges against OmniSource, including corrupt business influence and attempted receipt of stolen property.
6News has learned that some officials believe that there may not be enough evidence to pursue the case.
The office of the county's newly elected Prosecutor Terry Curry told 6News "it can't confirm or deny" the story.
An attorney for OmniSource would not comment on the story, saying "MCPO (Marion County Prosecutor's Office) will determine what is public when."


Cato said...

Terry goes along with this deal, or something bad happens to him.

Meanwhile, Hogsett is pretending to work, busting low-level criminals on gimme drug charges.

What judge could have any professional integrity by signing off on this? We needed a trial to out the depth of cop corruption, but this hush money buried Indy's dirty secrets.

Still confused about who the real government is?

Paul K. Ogden said...

There is still a payment being made in association with dropping the charges. There is no legal authority for the prosecutor's office to keep any money ... the net of which now appears to be $23,000.