Friday, June 20, 2014

Former Senior Ballard Administration Official Pleads Guilty In Land Bank Kickback Scheme

Local corruption
Reggie Walton (left) and John Hawkins (right)
John Hawkins, a former senior project manager for the Department of Metropolitan Development who once worked as a personal assistant to Mayor Greg Ballard, has pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in connection with charges he faced concerning a kickback scheme involving the City's Land Bank program for dealing with abandoned homes. Hawkins was accused, along with another DMD employee, Reggie Walton, of concocting a scheme to transfer abandoned homes to nonprofit organizations which, in turn, flipped them to private investors and then kicked back part of the profits to Hawkins and Walton. The IBJ report didn't indicate whether Hawkins pleaded guilty to the single count in exchange for cooperation in ongoing public corruption investigations involving city government.

According to the IBJ, Walton and three other defendants charged in the scheme are awaiting trial, including David Johnson, executive director of the Indiana Minority AIDS Coalition; Randall Sargent, owner and president of New Day Residential Development; and Aaron Reed, a friend of Walton. Walton and Johnson were also accused of taking money from persons defrauded in home sales while they were supposed to be helping the Marion Co. Prosecutor's Office provide restitution to them after they were defrauded by Sheila Amos, who sold vacant homes that she didn't own to the unsuspecting homebuyers. Walton faces separate charges for accepting kickbacks from a contract the City entered into with Mark Harsley to mow lawns of properties owned by the Land Bank. Harsley is also charged with wire fraud.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And this is how the land bank program works. Its a mess. Since January 6, 2014 the Department of Metropolitan Development land bank says they’re working with “Renew Indianapolis” to sell properties currently owed by Metropolitan Development. Renew is just a renaming of the old “Indianapolis Land Bank” nonprofit, renamed to disassociate itself from recent fraud. Just go to the new Renew Indianapolis site. Its a total mess. Click on properties for sale. You won’t find any that way. When I did this it downloaded private Paypal files to my computer which I then had to delete. Just symptomatic of how messed up this new nonprofit is. This outfit, Renew Indianapolis, says its trying to renovate, one at a time, vacant houses and then sell them. Fine in theory, but the city has given them a couple of hundred thousand dollars of our money to get the ball rolling, and I suspect its already gone. I know they’re applying for more grants. But this is just a drop in the bucket toward getting rid of 15,000 vacant houses in Indianapolis. You realize, of course, that these properties are actually owned by the city. They are the actual, legal owners. Much is being made of the idea, floated by the city council, that registering landlords will somehow help the vacant house problem. It won’t. Because the city is the largest owner of vacant houses in the city of Indianapolis, in Marion County, and in the State of Indiana. They’re just in over their heads. They can’t get them torn down because they can’t even fill potholes, much less demolish houses. They can’t get them sold, because their worthless tax sales are run so badly that nobody wants their properties. And their association with these nonprofits to move a few houses at a time after grossly expensive renovations is just plagued by fraud. The city council has no ideas at all. Their ludicrous plan to register every single landlord to ferret out the “absentee” owners of vacant properties is a joke. The city of Indianapolis is the largest owner of vacant, boarded up properties in the midwest. They could tear down all 15,000 for $5000 apiece if they’d open up the dumps to freely accept the debris and let the demolition contracts to small independent guys. They could have a real auction run by somebody other than Metropolitan Development and sell them for a thousand dollars apiece to people willing to owner occupy them or forfeit them back to the city. But no. They jack off everybody with this line that they can’t solve the vacant house problem. Vacant houses that the city owns and can freely do whatever it wants with. They disingenuously blame nonexistent unidentified out of state owners. And they try to ramp up regulation and registration of every landlord in the county as a way to bring in revenue by selling inspection approvals and levying fines on property owners who already pay exorbitant property taxes and hugely inflated utility bills. What a fraud; the whole thing reeks.