Three Indiana police officers are facing indictments for allegedly stealing military-grade weapons bought for the department and selling them on the internet.
The Lake County Sheriff's Department launched an investigation in late 2009 responding to a tip that machine guns were missing from the department's inventory, NBC Chicago reports. The investigation uncovered a long-running scheme to order fully automatic H&K machine guns, which are illegal for individuals to possess, through the sheriff's department to sell online.
Sgt. Joseph Kumstar and Officers Ronald Slusser and Edward Kabella have agreed to plead guilty to the six-count indictment announced by federal officials Thursday, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. According to the indictment, Kumster used official letterhead on Sept. 4, 2008 to submit requests to a weapons manufacturer for three Model 416 automatic machine guns, signing the letter himself as the chief of police when he was actually the deputy chief.
The indictment alleges that the defendants intercepted the delivery of the guns and sold them online in parts, the Sun-Times reports. Individual components often unavailable for purchase separately sold for $2,500 to $3,500 apiece, while Kumstar, Slusser and Kabella paid between $1,200 to $1,900 of their own money for the guns by representing their actions as police business.
The three officers are accused of selling a total of 74 fully automatic machine guns, some of which appeared in future criminal cases, WBEZ reports. Authorities in Montreal, Canada confiscated four gun barrels in May 2011 that listed the Lake County Sheriff's office as the registered owner.
The officers conducted a similar operation with laser aiming devices and are believed to have bought and sold 92 of those as well, according to WBEZ. Some of those lasers were later found in the home of a Mississippi man who was killed in a police shootout. The laser devices fall under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration’s Criminal Investigation’s Unit, which is now involved in the investigation.
“It’s unfortunate when persons in positions of trust allow their greed to cause them to disregard their oath to enforce the law and subsequently betray and endanger the public they serve,” said Dan Hensen, Special Agent in charge of the FDA's Chicago investigations unit, according to WBEZ.
Kumstar and Kabella are face up to 5 years in prison, and Slusser, who was also charged with money laundering, could get up to 20 years. All three defendants have agreed to pay back taxes to the IRS and turn over all the guns in their possession. Kumstar and Kabella each face taxes of more than $20,000, and Slusser, who bought most of the guns, owes nearly $200,000.
The weapons scandal was uncovered alongside another alleged ethical breach within Lake County Indiana, involving coroner Thomas Philpot, who was charged Thursday with theft, mail fraud and misappropriation of funds in connection with $25,000 in bonuses he paid himself while serving as county clerk, the Sun-Times reports.
“It’s just a bad day for the Sheriff’s Department,” Sheriff Buncich, who took office in January, told the Sun-Times. “But we’re going to get through this.”
How do these officers match up to some of Chicago's top cop crime? Compare this story to some of the city's most notorious good cops gone bad:
The Morning Email helps you start your workday with everything you need to know: breaking news, entertainment and a dash of fun. Learn more