CHICAGO -- Almost 10 months after closing a financial advisory firm that was used as front for an investigation into public finance corruption in Indiana, federal authorities are saying little about the status of the investigation.
Deborah Daniels, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, would only confirm yesterday that the investigation was "ongoing."
Meanwhile, public finance officials in the state reported that talk about the 19-month undercover investigation has died down considerably since it first became public in March. That was when Andrew Cox, a former securities broker hired by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to work on the sting operation, filed suit in federal court for money he claims he is owed by the agency.
"Mainly, people doing business in the state question the validity of the supposed investigation," said Tim Dusing, vice president of public finance at Bank One in Indianapolis. "No one believes there was much corruption to begin with."
Even Mr. Cox, who in the past had related information about his role in the investigation is being quiet. He said yesterday he has been asked by the FBI "not to say anything further" in anticipation of upcoming meetings with FBI officials.
FBI Special Agent Garry Schoon, a spokesman for the bureau's Indianapolis office, said there could not be any comment on any meetings with Mr. Cox or on the investigation at this time.
"We have pretty strict rules about talking about investigations, and in this case, the lawsuit [filed by Mr. Cox] only restricts us more severely in what we can say," he said.
A source in the Indiana legal community, however, said FBI agents are known to be conducting interviews with public officials regarding possible corruption in the public finance arena and that a federal grand jury has been convened to take testimony on the investigation.
"They might have run into some roadblocks, but they are still trying to put something together," the source added. "With the federal government, the length of time it takes for an investigation is really no indicator on how it is going."
The only names to independently surface in connection with the Indiana investigation so far are Norval Pickett, mayor of Brazil, and James Carey, mayor of Muncie. Both have said in previous published reports that they have been told they are subjects of the investigation. Neither official returned telephone calls.
Brent Westerfeld, one of Mr. Cox's attorneys, said while the meetings between his client and the FBI have not yet been scheduled, Mr. Cox hoped -- as a result of his meetings with bureau officials -- to recover some of the records of Bruin Corp. that were taken by the FBI when it shut down the covert phase of the so-called 'Boncor Investigation' on Oct. 31, 1990. Mr. Cox had set up Bruin in May 1989 as a financial advisory firm, registered it with the Securities & Exchange Commission, and licensed it through the Indiana Securities Commission.
According to a contract between Mr. Cox and the FBI, the firm and Mr. Cox were used by the federal agency for "a lawful undercover investigation regarding bribery and kickbacks to various Indiana public officials acting in their official capacities as they relate to public finance matters."
Mr. Westerfeld said the documents taken by the FBI were necessary for Mr. Cox to retain the state license for the firm.
"The FBI seized not only things that were part of the investigation, but things [Mr. Cox] had been working on for years," he explained, adding that his client "still wants to be licensed" to be a financial adviser in the securities industry.
Miriam Dant, a commissioner at the Indiana Securities Commission, said her office is seeking additional financial information from Mr. Cox, required when a financial adviser's license is renewed each year. She added his license has not been revoked at this time.
She explained Mr. Cox would have a right to a hearing before the commission if there was a move to revoke his license.
Meanwhile, Mr. Cox's lawsuit against the FBI for $73,500 in back pay plus severance has been moved to the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington, according to Timothy Bookwalter, Mr. Cox's other attorney. Mr. Bookwalter said his client's lawsuit was transferred from U.S. District Court in Indianapolis to the court that handles contractual disputes with the government about a month ago. But he added that no court date has been set.
Mr. Bookwalter said to bolster his client's claim for the wages, he planned to ask for copies of videotapes recorded by the FBI during the investigation.
"They will prove that [Mr. Cox] did work [for the FBI]," he explained. "He appeared on most if not all of the tapes."
Mr. Cox has said the FBI, as part of the undercover operation that he said spread from Indiana into Michigan and Illinois, had taped "a fair number" of public officials taking bribes. He has stated the FBI began with a list of about a dozen people who he said the bureau had determined would be predisposed to bribe-taking or breaching their fiduciary responsibilities. That list grew to include state, local, and university officials, as well as individuals from firms involved in municipal finance, according to Mr. Cox.
The next move in the investigation is clearly up to federal authorities.
Mr. Schoon explained the FBI generally will not even acknowledge an investigation has been taking place unless indictments or arrests have been made, but there are exceptions to the rule.
"It is possible that if an investigation went nowhere, and some prominent person's name had been sullied by being linked to an FBI investigation, there may well come a time when a statement would be issued saying that there was no evidence of wrongdoing and an investigation was over," Mr. Schoon said. "That would be a decision made by the U.S. Attorney's office and possibly superiors in Washington, D.C."
In May, Ms. Daniels refuted claims by Mr. Cox that one prominent Indianapolis official and some school board members in Clay County had been investigated.
Mr. Cox had initially filed his case in Marion County Small Claims Court last February, but the undercover operation did not become public until the case was moved to the more visible federal court at the insistence of the FBI.