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Former Muncie mayor pleads guilty to federal theft charges

Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler.JPG
Posted at 12:22 PM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 12:22:29-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A former Muncie mayor accused of taking a bribe in exchange for a public contract has struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors.

Dennis Tyler, 78, has agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of theft. The plea agreement was signed Tuesday by Tyler, defense attorney James Voyles and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany Preston.

In the plea agreement, Tyler admitted to receiving $5,238 to steer Public Board of Works contracts to an unnamed company. The contracts included ones involving a housing development intended for people experiencing homeless and disabled veterans. It also involved a site for two new car dealerships.

Tyler was indicted in November 2019 on theft of government funds charges. Federal prosecutors alleged Tyler accepted the bribe from an unidentified company in exchange for the awarding of public works projects in Muncie.

Tyler allegedly received the cash between 2014 and Aug. 25, 2016 through Tracy Barton, the Muncie Sanitary District's former superintendent of sewer maintenance and engineering. Barton was indicted in 2018 on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, falsification of documents and witness tampering. He pleaded guilty earlier this month to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Tyler is a Democrat who was mayor for eight years after serving in the Indiana House. He did not seek reelection in 2019.

Tyler's indictment came amid a federal investigation that resulted in Muncie's former building commissioner pleading guilty to money laundering and wire fraud. Craig Nichols was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay nearly $218,000 in restitution to the City of Muncie, the Muncie Sanitary District and developer Dannar Construction.

Prosecutors alleged Nichols used sham bidding practices and submitted fake invoices to steer work to companies he owned and then billed the city more than $376,000 for demolition work that was either never performed or performed at inflated prices.