Updated: Bujak faces new charges in federal court

krodine@idahostatesman.comJanuary 14, 2014 

Former Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak, who survived a flurry of state charges alleging mishandling of county and client funds, was indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on charges of bankruptcy fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice.

The six-count indictment also included charges of concealing assets and making a false statement under oath, plus a second obstruction charge.

Bujak, who resumed practicing law in September after his law license was restored, said he couldn’t comment on the new criminal charges, and he didn’t know the U.S. attorney was pursuing charges until a reporter contacted him about the indictment.

“I don’t know that very much surprises me anymore, but I was hoping it was all over,” Bujak said.

The charges center on Bujak's bankruptcy proceedings in 2010 and 2011, alleging that he failed to declare his then-wife's Rolex watch among their possessions and then concealed $26,000 he received from selling the watch and a diamond ring. The indictment also alleges he lied to the bankruptcy trustee about the watch and tried to get his then-wife, Pepper Bujak, to lie about it.

The undeclared Rolex came up during Bujak's case in federal bankruptcy court in the fall of 2011. Bujak denied concealing the asset but agreed to waive bankruptcy protection from his creditors. That meant the Chapter 7 bankruptcy moved forward but Bujak could be pursued privately by those he owes. When Bujak and his then-wife filed for bankruptcy, they listed $1.3 million in debts.

Bujak took office as Canyon County prosecutor in January 2009 and soon secured a contract to take over Nampa’s misdemeanor cases. Over the next year and a half, that $600,000 annual contract sparked a public records lawsuit about where the funds went and questions about why Bujak did not forward as much money to the county as county leaders expected. In September 2010, unable to pay the approximately $300,000 commissioners said he still owed, Bujak resigned. He filed for bankruptcy protection in November, and Idaho State Police launched an investigation into his handling of contract funds.

In December 2011, Bujak was charged with grand theft, later amended to misuse of public funds. The following July, he was charged with preparation of false evidence and computer crime in connection with the public funds charge. He also was charged with an unrelated grand theft in connection with his handling of a woman’s estate before he became county prosecutor.

Bujak faced four felony jury trials, but none of those juries convicted him. Misuse of public funds and false evidence trials ended in mistrials, the estate-handling theft charge ended in a not-guilty verdict, and a second trial on misuse of public funds also ended in acquittal. His law license, voluntarily suspended during the prosecutions, was restored at the end of August last year and he has been practicing law in Eagle since then.

The new charges of bankruptcy fraud, concealment of assets and making a false statement under oath are each punishable by up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release. Money laundering is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $500,000, or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, and up to five years of supervised release. Obstruction of justice is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release. The government also wants Bujak to forfeit $25,000 and any property derived through the alleged criminal action.

The case is being investigated by Internal Revenue Service criminal investigators. No court date has been set.

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