Tow operator pleads guilty to bribing Portage mayor

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HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) — A northwestern Indiana towing operator has pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge alleging he paid a mayor $12,000 for a towing contract.

Seventy-nine-year-old John Cortina of Kustom Auto Body in Portage entered the plea Friday, three days before the public corruption trial of Republican Portage Mayor James Snyder is set to begin.

Cortina is due to be sentenced April 22.

In a plea agreement filed Thursday, Cortina said he knew the $12,000 payment to Snyder in 2016 was a bribe in exchange for getting a towing contract.

One of Snyder's defense attorneys, Jayna Caccioppo, said in a statement Friday that her client "never solicited or accepted any bribes from anyone at any time."

Snyder was elected in 2015 to his second term as mayor of the Porter County city.

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