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EVANSVILLE, Ind. — A township trustee and two other people in Vanderburgh County have been indicted on charges of taking part in a kickback scheme and pocketing public money.

Pigeon Township Trustee Mariama Wilson, along with William Payne and Terrance Hardiman, is accused of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Court documents say the trio wrote contracts for building projects.

“These individuals are alleged to have engaged in a kickback scheme,” said U.S. District Attorney for Southern Indiana Zachary Myers. “The contracts that issue in the indictments that have been returned in federal court were allegedly intended to build things like a food pantry for a homeless shelter.”

Myers says they inflated the building prices for such projects and pocketed the extra cash paid to build those projects.

A release from the Myers says that Wilson worked with Payne, who works in the Trustee’s Office as the Director of Community Relations and Shelter Coordinator, to hire Hardiman and his business to remodel the homeless shelter, in exchange for Hardiman agreeing to kickback a portion of the funds that he received from the Trustee’s Office.

In some cases, Myers said that Wilson and Payne inflated invoices for the project by as much as $1,000 to $2,000.

Myers said that in total between February 2020 and May 2022, Wilson’s office paid Hardiman over $215,000 in taxpayer money for the projects with Wilson and Payne pocketing about $19,000 through the scheme.

“The only way to, I think, bring (kickback schemes) to a stop. The only way to hold public officials accountable when they break the public trust is investigation and prosecution,” said Myers.

All three face up to 20 years in prison if convicted in federal court.