Federal jury convicts Lake County sheriff in bribery case

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) -- A northwestern Indiana sheriff has been found guilty in a fraud and bribery trial involving an illegal towing scheme.

Federal jurors in Hammond convicted Lake County Sheriff John Buncich on Thursday morning after about five hours of deliberations Wednesday and Thursday. Buncich is free on bond until sentencing Dec. 6 and is immediately removed from office. He was charged with wire fraud, bribery and other counts. He testified over three days during the trial, denying all wrongdoing.

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday told jurors during closing arguments that the sheriff abused his elected position to solicit bribes from tow operators.

Buncich is a Democrat and was elected in 2015 to his fourth term as sheriff of Indiana's second-most populous county.