- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 13, 2021

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) - A former Whiting mayor who pleaded guilty to charges that he spent about a quarter million dollars in campaign funds to gamble and pay personal bills avoided prison on Wednesday when a federal judge ordered he be placed on two years probation and home detention for one year.

Joe Stahura was also ordered by U.S. District Judge James T. Moody to pay a $7,500 fine. But the judge decided against following the recommendation of federal prosecutors last month to sentence Stahura to 15 months in federal prison.

In September, Stahura, 64, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and filing a false tax return, felony charges that carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He was forced out of public office at the time.

His wife, Diane Stahura, entered into a separate agreement in which she acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence to charge her with wire fraud, according to a statement.

At Wednesday’s hearing Stahura apologized. “I’ve not only embarrassed my wife, my family, and the residents of Whiting, but everyone who believed in me,” he said.

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