February 19, 2010 - TOPEKA, KN—Michael R. “Mick” Wunder, 53, a former mayor and city commissioner of Junction City, Kan., has been sentenced to 24 months in federal prison for taking bribes from a developer who received city contracts to construct new housing developments. U.S. ! District Judge Richard D. Rogers also imposed a $900 special assessment and a forfeiture of $19,000.
In October 2009, a federal jury convicted Wunder on one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, violate the Hobbs Act and structure financial transactions to evade federal currency reporting requirements; four counts of unlawfully using his position as a Junction City Commissioner to obtain money and other properties; three counts of bank fraud; and one count of perjury.
During trial, prosecutors presented evidence that in 2004 Wunder became friends with co-defendant David Ray Freeman, a developer from Lawrence, Kan., who was considering investing in land for constructing new houses in Junction City. At the time, there were reports that soldiers returning to Junction City and Fort Riley would create a booming market for new housing and the city’s population could double. As a result, the city of Junction City began annexation of 1,400 acres to be developed for housing.
Wunder told Freeman that for $10,000 and construction of a new house on one of the lots, Wunder could deliver the necessary votes and approvals to give Freeman’s company, Big D, the exclusive right to develop Sutter Woods and Sutter Highlands, with more than 500 lots for single family residences, duplexes and condos. The development contracts were worth more than $12 million to Freeman’s company. Under the contract, the city would purchase the infrastructure and Big D would have the exclusive right to sell the lots.
On May 1, 2006, Freeman issued a $5,000 check payable to Wunder’s wife. The memo line on the check said, “Loan for Medical Bills.” On May 5, 2006, Freeman and his partners formed Big D Development, LLC, and Big D Construction, LLC. Freeman, who held a 50 percent interest in the businesses, bragged to his partners that he had a Junction City Commissioner in his pocket and he could get anything approved by the commission.
On July 6, 2006, Freeman issued a $5,000 check to Wunder. The memo line on the check said, “Loan Repayment.”
On July 27, 2006, the Junction City Commission approved an agreement with Big D for development of Sutter Woods Subdivision. On Sept. 8, 2006, the commission approved an agreement with Big D for development of Sutter Highlands. The city commission later approved payments in excess of $12 million to benefit Big D.
In late 2006, the city began accepting bids for renovation of the historic Opera House in Junction City. Wunder told Freeman that for $15,000 he could ensure Freeman would receive the winning bid for any company he selected. Freeman selected the company, which received the winning bid, and sent his administrative assistant to deliver $9,000 to Wunder during a meeting at a rest stop on Interstate 70 near Paxico.
Co-defendant David Ray Freeman pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. He is awaiting sentencing.
Welch commended the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service/Criminal Investigation Division, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Kenney and Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Hathaway for their work on the case.