Hammond – Authorities have arrested a land speculator accused of defrauding the Lake County’s property tax sales system to buy land near Gary’s newly opened Hard Rock Casino.
Sergio Gutierrez, 49, of Hobart, appeared in the US District Court in Hammond Tuesday to plead not guilty of charges of postal fraud, a crime that can be punished with years of imprisonment.
Judge Joshua P. Kolar released Gutierrez for $ 20,000 and scheduled a jury trial on the case on November 22nd.
A state grand jury indicted Gutierrez in July, but sealed the case from the public until he was arrested Tuesday in Hammond.
The eight-page indictment alleges Gutierrez defrauded local government of $ 22,000 in taxes on four properties he owned on the 2700 block on Calhoun Street and the 2800 block on Dallas Street in Gary’s Black Oak neighborhood.
When Gutierrez refused to pay his taxes, the county placed the four delinquent properties on the auction block in its 2015 tax sale with the intention of selling them to the highest bidder in order to recoup some of the lost tax revenue.
The indictment states that Gutierrez has been buying taxable real estate for at least 2012, even after allegedly being unable to bid on real estate because he refused to pay taxes on Gary real estate.