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Attorneys to get big cut of $300K OmniSource settlement

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When Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry announced he was dropping criminal and civil charges against scrap-metal recycling firm OmniSource Inc., he said the company had agreed to make a $300,000 contribution, as a show of good faith, to fund law enforcement training programs.

In reality, the funds are being processed like any other civil forfeiture involving an illegal business enterprise, and less than $200,000 of the settlement cash will actually make it to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

First in line to be paid: Contingent-fee private attorneys Greg Garrison, who filed the initial civil forfeiture case while under contract with former Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, and Mark K. Sullivan, an outside attorney brought on by Curry as Garrison's co-counsel. The pair will split 15 percent of the settlement, or $45,000, plus filing fees.

The remaining $255,000 will be split, with 20 percent going to the prosecutor's office, 75 percent going to IMPD, and 5 percent for a joint fund administered by the prosecutor and director of public safety, said Chief Deputy Prosecutor David Rimstidt.

The total going to IMPD, about $191,250, does not sit well with OmniSource officials.

The company would not have agreed to the deal if they knew the settlement would pay an "ounce of tribute to this scurrilous investigation," said Ben Eisbart, a vice president at Fort Wayne-based Steel Dynamics Inc., OmniSource's parent company.

OmniSource intended the "donation" to be used for law enforcement programs, including training on how to prevent scrap-metal theft, an extension of the company's own more-than-$1 million investment in anti-theft measures at its five local scrap yards, Eisbart said.

"The citizens of Indianapolis will be infinitely better served by having well-trained individuals than by paying some lawyers," he said. "We're beside ourselves. We want to meet with the prosecutor to find out where it went off the track. This was never about money."

The $300,000 roughly matches the amount of cash authorities seized from local OmniSource scrap yards in 2009, after a year-long investigation into the company's alleged purchases of stolen cars, boats, gutters and wiring.

A Marion County grand jury returned a 16-page indictment against OmniSource in October 2010, charging the company with three counts of corrupt business influence and five counts of attempted receipt of stolen property.

There was plenty of evidence to prove employees of OmniSource bought stolen property, Curry said. The problem was proving employees knew the metal had been stolen. And after a judge threw out the corrupt business influence charge, that left just five counts of attempted stolen property.

Curry said he decided against investing the resources in pursuing the charges that at most would result in a fine of $10,000 per count and no jail time for anyone. The seized cash will be returned to OmniSource, which will then make its $300,000 contribution.

"It's fair to say there was a negotiation on all the terms of the ultimate agreement," Curry said. "We will process it as a civil forfeiture."

The prosecutor's office is no longer using outside contingent-fee attorneys to handle civil forfeitures, Curry noted, though he said he had no choice but to honor the prior agreement between Brizzi and Garrison.

Even though Garrison stands to collect a cut of the settlement, he said he was livid when he heard Curry would be dropping the charges.

In his forfeiture filing against OmniSource of behalf of Brizzi, Garrison wrote that the company buys millions of dollars worth of stolen metal per year as its “regular way of doing business” and operates in a similar fashion all over the state.

"Letting those guys go in the face of the powerful evidence that supported both the criminal and civil cases is inconceivable to me," Garrison wrote in an e-mail to IBJ on Thursday. "Damn."

OmniSource had described the civil suit, which sought the forfeiture of five Indianapolis-area scrap yards and a foundry facility in Hendricks County, as part of a plan by Brizzi and Garrison to “extract money” under threat of civil forfeiture. Garrison filed the case during Brizzi's last week as prosecutor.

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  • Omni works hard
    I have been a supplier and have sold to Omni for as long as I can remember. If you have ever been to one of their yards you would see that they try very hard to make sure what they are buying is legit. You have to have a valid ID, declare source of material- often verified with a letter from the source, they photograph you with the material and on site buyers are very careful how they handle each transaction. I have even attended seminars that they have put on at scrap assoc. meetings that addressed metal theft and how to combat it. I have never seen a company try harder to be legit.
  • Illegal
    The judge should be making a determination of law enforcement costs as to the particular case. That is required under the Indiana Code and was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court's in Serrano v. State. Prosecutor Curry can't simply decide to pocket the money for law enforcement without court making a deterimantion of law enforcement costs and approving the settlement. It is scandalous that the prosecutor's office continues to ignore the law and case law to pocket 100% of civil forfeiture proceeds in Marion County.
  • Criminals
    These criminals are nothing but pigs with a license by IMPD to purchase stolen goods for the sole intent of profit and now backed by the prosecutors office. Any reasonable person can deduct that when they see the mountains of new wire and tube that has been pilferred from business like ours abd easily sold to the legal black market. Omni-Source managers are crominals and the cops who worked there and turned a blind eye are criminals who are no better than the crack heads and organized theft rings who steal from all Indiana residents by causing insurance rates to rise and the cost to build to elevate also. I hope these cops and attorneys are proud of themselves now.

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  1. Cramer agrees...says don't buy it and sell it if you own it! Their "pay to play" cost is this issue. As long as they charge customers, they never will attain the critical mass needed to be a successful on company...Jim Cramer quote.

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