Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana Land Speculation Scheme Leads to Indictment

An Indiana man was charged in a federal indictment with mail fraud after a plot surfaced over the improper purchase of properties near the Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana, prosecutors said. He was allegedly speculating on land purchases before the Gary, Indiana gaming property opened earlier this year.

The plot ran between 2015 and 2019
The plot ran between 2015 and 2019
Northern District of Indiana Acting US Attorney Tina L. Nommay, pictured above. She announced the indictment of a man who allegedly speculated on land deals near a Gary casino. He was indicted on mail fraud. (Image: Daily Advent)

Sergio Gutierrez, 49, of Hobart was indicted after investigators uncovered the multi-year scheme, according to Northern District of Indiana Acting US Attorney Tina L. Nommay.

The plot ran between 2015 and 2019, she said in a recent statement. It attempted to allegedly defraud the Lake County Auditor’s Office.

Owed $22K in Property Taxes

Gutierrez allegedly defaulted on $22,000 in property taxes, according to the Times of Northwest Indiana. The taxes were owed on four of his properties, the report adds. Under the scheme, Gutierrez made the effort to obtain additional acreage, but he could not do so because of overdue property taxes, Nommay said.

Gutierrez allegedly employed other suspects and used the US mail during the scheme, prosecutors said. Nommay explained those actions violate the federal mail fraud statute.

On Tuesday, Gutierrez plead not guilty in US District Court in Hammond to mail fraud, the Times reported. Gutierrez was released after posting $20,000 bond. US District Court Judge Joshua P. Kolar has scheduled Gutierrez’s trial to start on Nov. 22.

Prior Casino Case

Earlier this month, an Indiana state judge dismissed a lawsuit from Spectacle Entertainment shareholders against the Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC). It relates to the continuing ownership controversy over Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana.

Marion Superior Court Judge John Chavis issued the order last week after a voluntary request from the Spectacle shareowners to withdraw the court action.

The lawsuit challenged integrity rules for shareholders, according to the Times. Gaming regulators require financial and background details on investors of privately held casinos.

The latest court ruling came after the IGC gave the go-ahead to Spectacle to sell majority control of the casino to Florida-based Hard Rock International. The company is to be a controlling partner in the $300 million gaming property.

Since January 2020, Spectacle was the target of an IGC investigation that has uncovered several alleged violations of state gaming regulations, as well as federal laws. It’s led to one former Spectacle executive facing federal charges for campaign finance violations, and its founder surrendering his gaming license.

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