Land Bank internal audit: 48 properties linked to federal probe

Program was shut down May 21

INDIANAPOLIS - New details were revealed from the internal audit conducted in the wake of the federal investigation of the Indianapolis Land Bank program.

Two city administrators and three other people were indicted for accepting bribes and kickbacks related to the sale of property from the Land Bank program.

The Indianapolis Land Bank program took abandoned and foreclosed properties that had no buyers in the tax sale and made them available to nonprofit organizations for as little as $1,000.

The 111-page document forwarded to federal investigators revealed the discovery of at least 48 additional properties that were linked to the three nonprofits indicted last month by federal investigators.

“It would really be up to federal investigators to decide if any of these additional properties had alleged wrongdoing or not. All we can say is that these properties were associated with those named in the indictment,” said mayoral spokesman Marc Lotter.

The indictments handed down last month named five individuals, including two city employees, for a scheme of soliciting and accepting bribes and kickbacks for favorable actions regarding the sale of properties in the Land Bank.

In the Mapleton-Fall Creek area, some neighborhoods had vacancy rates of 65 percent. The Land Bank helped to bring 70 new homeowners into the neighborhood in the past year alone.

“We just have to make sure that we protect our investment, we protect the interests of the community and that we work with people that will sustain the development that we have,” said Leigh Riley Evans with the Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation.

The seizure of the Land Bank records May 21 effectively shut down the program.

In the meantime, maintenance, upkeep and mowing expenses for more than 1,200 homes in the Land Bank program continue to mount.

“Once Mayor Ballard is convinced that we’ve got the necessary safeguards in place, that we’ve undertaken a thorough review of the process, we want to get the Land Bank operations back up and running. Because we do have abandoned homes in the community, we need to get them transitioned back and returned into productive housing stock,” Lotter said.

The U.S. Attorney’s office issued a statement saying it would have no comment on the factual assertions made in the city’s internal audit.

City officials added that they would not take any action against the innocent individuals who unwittingly purchased property that was fraudulently obtained.

Follow Jack Rinehart on Twitter: @jackrinehart6

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