INdiana Systemic Thinking

February 8, 2008

Delaware County Circuit Court Judge Under Investigation

From the Muncie Star Press:

Delaware Circuit Court 5 Judge Wayne Lennington acknowledged Thursday he is under criminal investigation for his connection to investment properties but denied any wrongdoing.

Lennington, 77 — a local attorney for four decades before his 1998 appointment to the bench — said he was guilty only of associating himself with an Ohio man he now describes as a scam artist.

“I didn’t do nothing except get screwed,” the judge said. Lennington said he believes he is under investigation by Indiana State Police and the Delaware County prosecutor’s office for his business ties to ESS Investments LLC, which is operated by Joseph Gray and chartered out of Westerville, Ohio.

ESS has owned at least five properties on the south side of Muncie and in the northeastside Whiteley neighborhood since 2004. Those five properties account for more than $32,000 in delinquent real estate taxes and city sewage bills, according to the Delaware County treasurer’s office.

Lennington said he never had ownership interest in ESS Investments, which despite its Ohio charter maintains a South Carolina address and a disconnected South Carolina phone number.

He admits, however, to lending Gray $20,000 shortly after ESS bought the local houses to finance their restoration.

“I thought we could fix them up and flip them and make some money,” Lennington said, adding most homes went unrestored and he never saw a return on his investment.

Being a gullible investor and knowing a slumlord, however, are not illegal. Instead, evidence suggests investigators are interested in Lennington because of his longtime role as administrator of Delaware County’s tax court.

Staci Schneider, a spokesman for Attorney General Steve Carter, would not confirm Thursday night whether their office was conducting an investigation into Lennington, nor would ISP Sgt. Rod Russell, the public information officer for the Redkey post.

Lennington said he never acted improperly as tax sale judge nor did he use his authority for financial gain.

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