MUNCIE, Ind. — It was an investigation that revealed years of government corruption and betrayal. Now, federal investigators are ready to close the book on a dark chapter in Muncie history.
FBI Indianapolis began investigating Muncie public officials back in 2015, and in the eight years since, the United States Department of Justice and Attorney’s Office joined the effort to find out if certain government officials were working together in secret to financially benefit one another. The answer was yes, and it’s a list that includes people who are supposed to be amongst the most trusted in the city.
Among those charged and convicted in this case were former Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler, former Building Commissioner Craig Nichols, former Superintendent of Sewer Maintenance and Engineering Tracy Barton, former District Administrator Debra Nicole Grigsby, former Muncie police officers Jess Neal, and Jeff Burke, Rodney Barber, and Tony Franklin.
“When a mayor, and other city leaders are involved in this sort of corruption, in a city where many residents still know their government officials by their first names, these violations of the trust of the public cut deeper,” said US Attorney Zach Myers in a Tuesday press conference.
Former mayor Tyler is accused to favoring certain construction contract bids for projects that never came through, committing wire fraud, and much more. The other former public officials named also worked together for financial gain, committing fraud, making false statements, falsifying documents, and in the case of some police officers, committing witness tampering.
“This was wrong, it was a crime, and the criminals have been held accountable,” said Myers.
Below is a list of each defendant in the case, who they are and their sentences:
Dennis Tyler, 78, of Muncie, Former Mayor of Muncie – Theft of Government Funds – 1 year and a day imprisonment, 3 years’ supervised release, $15,250 in restitution
Craig Nichols, 40, of Muncie, Former Muncie Building Commissioner, Owner, Advanced Walls & Ceilings and Capitol Consulting and Property Management – Wire Fraud and Money Laundering – 2 years’ imprisonment3 years’ supervised release $217,892 in restitution
Tracy Barton, 52, of Muncie, Former Superintendent of Sewer Maintenance and Engineering – Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud – 1 year of probation
Debra Nicole Grigsby, 46, of Muncie, Former District Administrator of Muncie Sanitary District – Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud – 1 year and a day imprisonment, 2 years’ supervised release, $370,556.99 in restitution
Jess Neal, 54, of Muncie, Former Muncie police officer – Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud – 2 years’ imprisonment, 2 years’ supervised release, $55,650 in restitution
Jeff Burke, 55, of Muncie, Owner, Burke Rentals 1, and McGalliard Guns & More – Bank Fraud – 6 months imprisonment, and 6 months’ home confinement, 2 and a half years’ supervised release, $245,000 in restitution
Rodney Barber, 53, of Muncie, Owner, Barber Contracting – Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud – 2 years of probation, $104,250 in restitution
Tony Franklin, 62, of Muncie, Owner, Franklin Building and Design – Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud – 1 year and 1 day, $279,806.99 in restitution, 2 years supervised release
“This case should send a message, that public officials who engage in criminal activity like this, thinking they are above the law, will be identified and held accountable,” said FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Herbert Stapleton.