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FBI agents arrest Muncie, Ind., mayor in corruption probe

By Sommer Brokaw
FBI agents arrest Muncie, Ind., mayor in corruption probe
Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler was arrested Monday amid a corruption probe spanning back to 2016. Photo by Mayor Dennis Tyler/Facebook

Nov. 18 (UPI) -- FBI agents arrested Muncie, Ind., Mayor Dennis Tyler on Monday amid a corruption probe that has led to the arrests of six others.

Tyler was arrested at his home in Muncie's north side.

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"I can confirm an arrest warrant was executed at the home of Mayor Dennis Tyler this morning and he is currently in custody," FBI spokesperson Christine Bavender told The Star Press.

A federal court filing shows that he is charged with theft of government funds.

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Tyler is accused of accepting $5,000 from Tracy Barton, Muncie Sanitary District superintendent of sewer maintenance and engineering, for awarding city contracts.

The Muncie mayor's term ends Dec. 31 and he had announced previously that he would not seek another term.

If the circuit court decides he is unable to fulfill the duties of his office until then, state law says the position would go to the deputy mayor or president of the city council or council's president pro tempore. Since Muncie does not have a deputy mayor, the position would be assigned to Muncie City Council President Doug Marshall.

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However, experts told The Star Press that Tyler may have designated a second-in-command before his arrest.

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At least six other Muncie city officials or business leaders have been arrested in the investigation, which began in 2016.

In July, Tyler's appointed head of the Muncie Sanitary District, Debra Nicole Grigsby, and Tony Franklin, owner of Franklin Building and Design, were arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, making false statements, and falsification of documents in a federal investigation. Grigsby and Franklin are set for trial beginning Feb. 10.

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Earlier in the year, Rodney A. Barber, owner of Barber Contracting, was arrested on charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and false statement.

The Star Press first reported in 2016 that the FBI was investigating Muncie city government for possible wrongdoing, including building demolitions overseen by the city, with some of them performed by a company founded by Craig Nichols, who had served as building commissioner.

Nichols was indicted on 33 federal counts of money laundering, wire fraud and theft in February 2017, a month after FBI agents had executed search warrants on his home and office in city hall. Nichols pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering in January and was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

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Jeffrey Burke, owner of McGalliard Guns and More, who bought a near-downtown building for $150,000 in August 2015 and sold it weeks later to Muncie Sanitary District for $395,000 and Barton were arrested in September on suspicion of fraud.

Burke's trial is set for Jan. 27.

A U.S. District Court judge granted Barton's request for rescheduling his Dec. 9 trial on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, falsification of documents in a federal investigation and witness tampering to April 13.

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