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Muncie Building Commissioner Pleads Guilty To Federal Fraud Charges

By Stephanie Wiechmann, IPR News | Published on in Crime, Government, Local News
FBI agents first searched a Muncie city office in January 2017. (File photos: Tony Sandleben)

Muncie’s building commissioner is pleading guilty to some federal fraud charges relating to work he did as a city official.  As IPR’s Stephanie Wiechmann reports, the guilty plea is part of a deal that will dismiss more than 30 charges against him.

In February of 2017, Muncie Building Commissioner Craig Nichols was indicted in federal court on 34 counts.  In a deal filed in federal court Thursday, he’ll plead guilty to two – one for wire fraud and one for money laundering.

Nichols was appointed building commissioner in 2012 by Muncie’s current mayor, Dennis Tyler.

Federal officials say Nichols abused his position to steer work to his private contracting companies, using sham bidding practices, fake invoices, and billing for demolitions that did not actually happen.   Data from the city of Muncie shows it paid Nichols’ companies nearly $800,000 since 2013.

According to the maximum sentence for both counts, Nichols faces up to 40 years in prison and possible fines of up to $750,000.

Nichols has been on unpaid leave from his city job since he was arrested.  The city named an interim building commissioner in March of 2017, but has not yet made that appointment permanent.

When Nichols was arrested, the mayor and city lawyers said the indictment did not charge any other Muncie city officials with crimes or wrong-doing.

The investigation into Nichols’ actions included two FBI raids in Muncie – one on the building commissioner’s office in City Hall and another on property owned by the Muncie Sanitary District.