Former Gary Housing Authority director pleads not guilty to wire fraud charges

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Mary Cossey

Crusader Staff Report

Former executive director of the Gary Housing Authority Mary Cossey has pleaded not guilty to wire fraud charges.

Cossey was scheduled to appear in court, Friday, December 18 in a vid­eo conference to enter her plea and get a date set for trial.

In August, Cossey, 54, of Mun­ster, was indicted on three counts of wire fraud after she failed to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in income when she filed bankruptcy in 2016. Prosecutors accuse Cossey of concealing more than $250,000 in income and assets as part of her bankruptcy filings. That includes $187,000 deposited into a bank account owned by “Individual A.”

Court documents say Cossey made more than 200 cash depos­its from January 2013 to September 2019. In court documents, Individ­ual A indicated that 80 percent of the deposits went to pay the Amer­ican Express bill in Individual A’s name. Court documents say while Cossey was in bankruptcy, Individ­ual A allowed her to charge more than $240,000 to her American Ex­press credit card on clothing, jewel­ry and accessories, including more than $4,800 in Gucci handbags. Among other purchases was a mink jacket costing nearly $2,100 in New York City and more than $5,800 on shoes and apparel at Neiman Marcus.

The identity of Individual A has not been released, but prosecutors in court documents refer to the in­dividual as a female.

Court documents allege Cossey paid three times more to Individual A than to her trustee in her Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, court records state. Prosecutors allege Cossey violat­ed bankruptcy law, which bars debt­ors from favoring some owed credi­tors at the expense of others.

In a press release, Thomas Kirsch II, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana said, “The pur­pose of Cossey’s scheme was to avail herself of the benefits of bankruptcy — including preventing foreclosure on her home, reducing the majority of her debt on a rental property in Gary, Indiana, and eliminating her unsecured debt for pennies on the dollar — without making any of the financial sacrifices required by Chap­ter 13 debtors,” Kirsch’s office wrote in the release.

Cossey is on a leave of absence as operations manager for NIPSCO, where she has been employed since 2015.

Cossey in 2013 served as director of constituent services under May­or Freeman-Wilson’s administration, where she had an $80,000 annual sal­ary. She also served as executive direc­tor of the Gary Housing Authority. She left Gary government in 2015 before joining NIPSCO as opera­tions manager.

Freeman-Wilson is currently pres­ident and CEO of the Chicago Ur­ban League.

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