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Former Merrillville councilman pleads guilty to federal bribery charge

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A former Merrillville, Indiana, town councilman has pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges for accepting vehicles in exchange for town towing contracts.

A federal grand jury returned the indictment Friday against 51-year-old Thomas Goralczyk, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office. The indictment charged him with soliciting and accepting bribes from the owner of a towing company in exchange for towing contracts between that company and the Town of Merrillville.

Goralczyk has pleaded guilty to the bribery charge, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Prosecutors said that Goralczyk, who was elected a town councilman in 2007 and re-elected in 2011, accepted the bribes between February 2013 and February 2014. The bribes included a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee, a 2008 Ford Focus, four camper tires and free storage for Goralczyk’s personal motorcycle.

Goralczyk “obtained a Jeep Grand Cherokee for $400 when he knew the value was in excess of $2,500,” prosecutors said. In an attempt to cover up the bribe, he presented the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles with a false bill of sale claiming he paid $1,000 for it.

He also accepted the Ford Focus for free and presented a false bill of sale claiming he paid $2,750 for it, the U.S. attorney’s office said. He acknowledged that he accepted the vehicles in exchange for a promise to use his influence as a Merrillville town councilman to secure a towing contract for the company.

“The public demands and is, in fact, entitled to honest public servants,” U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch II said in the statement. “Mr. Goralczyk violated this trust for the purpose of enriching himself. This will not be tolerated at any level of government. Public corruption must be routed out where it exists.”

A date for Gorlaczyk’s plea hearing has not yet been set.