Federal agents and Indiana State Police executed a search warrant on Tuesday at the office of Lake County (Ind.) Surveyor George Van Til.
At least four agents dressed in FBI windbreakers, one wearing a State Police jacket, removed at least six desktop computers and one laptop computer, six hard drives and boxes of documents, all covered in evidence tape, from the office on the second floor of the Lake County Government Center.
Agents stopped employees at the door and pointed to a sign stating that the office would be closed for roughly two hours.
Attorney Scott King, a former federal prosecutor and former Gary, Ind., mayor, approached the office and told agents he had received a call from Van Til.
A short time later, Van Til emerged and spoke briefly with King.
When asked if he had retained King's services, Van Til said, "[King] was in the building. I don't know if I need an attorney."
"This is not the first time [agents] have been to the government center, and it won't be the last," Van Til said "Over the years they've come for various things in lots of offices. Anytime there's a complaint, they pursue it."
County Attorney John Dull said he was not notified or served with a subpoena. He said he became aware of the agents' presence about 10 a.m.
"I've predicted that George Van Til would be the Carol Ann Seaton of 2012, and this latest development shows why," said Eric Krieg, the Republican who Van Til will face in the fall election, in reference to the former county assessor candidate who faced legal problems after her nomination in May 2010. "While we cannot yet know why the FBI raided Mr. Van Til's office, they don't generally do it for innocent reasons. This is yet another stain on the record of Lake County, the kind of thing that hurts our reputation and makes it more difficult to recruit companies to relocate here. It is also in line with the other unethical behavior that Mr. Van Til has been guilty of in the past." Surveyor's office employee Kathy Royer returned from her lunch break about 1:15 p.m. and was told by a state police investigator that the offices would be closed for at least another hour.
"I have no idea what this is about. All these people came in, the FBI," she said. "They said, ‘Don't touch the computers.' Just ‘don't touch the computers.' That is all I know."
Eleven agents emerged from the office at 2:21 p.m. carrying computers and papers.
Twenty minutes later a surveyor's office employee came out with a printed statement from Van Til, and said he won't be making any other statements.
FBI agents declined to identify themselves and referred all questions to FBI field office in Indianapolis. Several phone calls made to the office Tuesday afternoon were not returned.
Van Til, 64, of Merrillville, is in the midst of a re-election campaign, running for a sixth term. He beat former East Chicago City Engineer John E. Garcia in the May 8 Democratic primary, and will face Krieg in November.
Van Til had a long career in politics before becoming surveyor. He was the chief of staff for the Democrats in the Indiana House of
Representatives, and the administrative assistant for two North Township trustees. At 24, he won election to the Highland Town Council and moved up to a seat on the Lake County Council.