News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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November 3, 2012

Ex-police chief guilty of corruption

WEST TERRE HAUTE — A former West Terre Haute police chief has pleaded guilty in federal court in a public corruption case.

Mark J. Arnold, 38, faces up to 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to making a false written statement in connection with the acquisition of more than two dozen firearms.

U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Hogsett said Friday that Arnold purchased 26 firearms using the public funds of the town of West Terre Haute, but only two of those guns ever came into the possession of town police officers.

Hogsett stated that Arnold purchased the firearms from a federally licensed dealer in Danville, Ill., and that Arnold signed a statement that the guns were for official use by the police department and were not being acquired for transfer or resale.

A citizen tip resulted in an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. That lengthy investigation resulted in the criminal charge being filed in September, with Arnold’s identity kept under seal.

Arnold appeared in federal court on Thursday afternoon where he signed the plea agreement, and the court accepted his guilty plea. Sentencing is expected to occur sometime after the first of the year.

“Hoosiers expect and deserve community leaders who work to end the scourge of public corruption in this state, not embrace it,” Hogsett said. “When these leaders come up short, when they violate that trust, it is both an opportunity for reflection and a time to redouble our efforts to ensure these tragedies do not happen in the future.”

 As part of Arnold’s agreement to plead guilty, Arnold forfeited all rights to weapons he purchased as part of his illegal scheme.

Arnold has been released under court supervision while he awaits sentencing, and has been ordered to surrender his passport.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has redoubled efforts to combat what Hogsett calls a “culture of corruption” in Indiana. This includes the launch this year of the U.S. Attorney’s Public Integrity Working Group.

The Working Group consists of representatives from federal and state law enforcement agencies, and meets regularly to share information regarding public corruption investigations. The collaborative environment has allowed for greater cooperation between agencies and is designed to facilitate faster, more effective investigations into any allegation of public corruption.

Hogsett acknowledged the critical role that whistleblowers often play in prosecutions of public corruption. He urged anyone with information relating to criminal activity to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office public corruption hotline at 317-229-2443.

The investigation in the federal case began before Arnold was charged in Vigo Superior Court 1 with six counts of class-D felony theft. Those local charges stem from allegations that Arnold used funds from the Town of West Terre Haute to make numerous unauthorized purchases, including fuel for personal vehicles.

That case had been scheduled for trial in October, but now has a hearing date of Dec. 27 to set new trial dates.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com.

Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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