Criminal Justice

Van Til Entered “Guilty” Plea in Federal Court

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December 5, 2013 — The federal court in Hammond gained a “guilty” plea today, and Lake County lost its surveyor.

Former Lake County surveyor George Van Til submitted the guilty plea, admitting under oath to committing federal wire fraud, and he appeared in federal court today to formalize his plea to six counts of wire fraud.  Van Til’s guilty plea was part of an agreement made public Monday and officially entered into court today.

Under the deal, Van Til admits to wire fraud in exchange for two other criminal counts being dropped from the case, and the prosecution agrees to recommend the shortest jail sentence for him.  Senior Judge James T. Moody made sure that Van Til is aware that the plea agreement is only a recommendation, and the sentence imposed will still be decided by the judge.

Van Til kept his head low and his speech soft as he admitted to the charges, which were explained by Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson.  Benson told the court that from November 2007 to December 2012 Van Til directed employees in his county government office to engage in work for Van Til’s re-election campaign despite the fact that they were being paid by the county.

One dropped obstruction of justice charge accused Van Til of instructing a county employee to remove a hard drive from a county computer to replace it with a new hard drive to conceal campaign work done through the surveyor’s office.  Each of the six wire fraud counts carries a maximum of twenty years in prison with three years supervised release for a potential sentence of 120 years in prison.  As a result of his guilty plea Van Til was also forced to resign from his position as the county surveyor.

Both sides have to agree to a presentencing report which will include an interview with Van Til.  Once that report is finalized a sentencing hearing will be scheduled.  Judge Moody did specify that he reserves the right to deny the plea agreement at the sentencing hearing.  So while Van Til has entered a guilty plea, its terms are not finalized.

By Sarah Holst


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