A former Junction City commissioner faces charges that he accepted payments and gifts from a Lawrence builder who was seeking insider deals to develop hundreds of homes in connection with an anticipated building boom related to a troop buildup at nearby Fort Riley.
Michael “Mick” Wunder, defeated in his run for re-election in April, is accused of:
• One count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, violate the Hobbs Act and structure financial transactions to evade federal currency reporting requirements.
• One count of structuring financial transactions to evade the Bank Secrecy Act requiring reports on transactions of $10,000 or more.
• Five counts of unlawfully using his position as a Junction City commissioner to obtain money and other properties.
• Three counts of bank fraud.
• One count of perjury for allegedly lying about his role in the scheme when questioned by a grand jury.
All of the charges are connected to a plan connected to David Ray Freeman, a Lawrence builder who pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Freeman’s plea agreement included a pledge that he would provide information and testify against others who may have been involved in the plot, such as a former Junction City commissioner who had identified only as “firefighter.”
On Wednesday, Wunder was identified as “firefighter” in an indictment that had been sealed since June 10, two days after Freeman had been charged in U.S. District Court.
Freeman has admitted bragging to associates that he had the commissioner “in his pocket” as Freeman’s combined company — Big D Construction and Big D Development — sought agreements to build homes in Junction City. Big D eventually secured deals that prosecutors say were worth $12 million.
To help land the deals, prosecutors allege — and Freeman has acknowledged — that Wunder accepted a total of $19,000 in payoffs from Freeman.
According to the indictment, Wunder also traveled to the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo., where he received — from Freeman — free lodging at the Sheraton on the Plaza, dinner and drinks at an Italian restaurant and limousine service.
Also, according to the indictment, Freeman and his business partners had set aside a “choice” lot in one of their approved subdivisions for Wunder.
The indictment, released Wednesday, includes an excerpt from a transcript detailing Wunder’s testimony to a grand jury. Wunder had been questioned about a $9,000 payment he had received from Freeman.
The questioner mentioned that Wunder had “indicated” the payment was for items he’d already given to Freeman.
“Yes, sir,” Wunder replied.
Question: “And there were four items?”
Wunder: “There were three baseballs, a bat and a picture.”
Prosecutors allege that Wunder received the money in March 2007, in connection with illegal activities.