Ex-Indiana Democrat party chief Peter Manous received the minimum sentence for his eight-count guilty plea to pension fund theft — 27 months in prison, two years of supervised released and $200,000 in fines. U.S. Dist. Judge Robert L. Miller Jr [N.D. IN, Reagan) rejected Manous’ plea to depart even further from the federal sentencing guidelines, sticking closely to the recommendation made by U.S. Attorney Joseph Van Bokkelen.
The fine was the same amount Manous received as a fee from real estate broker Kevin Pastrick, the son of the outgoing East Chicago mayor, in the $10 million, 1999 Chesterton land deal. Manous and Pastrick paid a kickback to Indiana Regional Carpenters Union official Gerry Nannenga for influencing the pension board’s purchase of the 55 acres at an inflated price. All three pled guilty.
Despite the fine, the court backed away from requiring Manous to pay restitution to the union. Federal prosecutors said the issue of how much Manous owed the Carpenters Union Pension Fund could drag out the sentencing indefinitely.
Manous is being pursued in two separate civil lawsuits — one brought by the Carpenters Union Pension Fund. The other was filed in September by a group of rank-and-file carpenters who are suing the conspirators, the union pension fund and Lake Erie Land Co., the division of NiSource that sold the land. The pension fund submitted a letter to the court saying the land was worth about $5.5 million, not the $10 million it paid in 1999. The pension fund is seeking $8.5 million in compensation and damages.
Asking to lower Manous’ sentence to the minimum, prosecutors cited his cooperation in the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch said Manous began cooperating shortly after he was indicted in September 2003. He admitted early to forging the documents that Pastrick and Ihle represented as being the work product of Olympic Services, a fictitious company that was a conduit to pay Nannenga at least $45,000. Pastrick had told the government the documents were created in 1998 and that Manous’ father — through Olympic Services — had done work for his real estate company. Manous testified that he made up the documents after being questioned by the U.S. Dept. of Labor in 2002. He slipped the forged documents into a lock box in his parents’ home to complete the deception. [Gary Post-Tribune, 11/4/04]