NEW CASTLE, Ind. (WISH) – A former Department of Child Services director faces charges that he lied to a federal grand jury when asked about a man accused of sexually exploiting children.
58-year-old Michael Fleming was arrested in New Castle Tuesday morning. He faces charges including perjury and making a materially false statement. Fleming is also a school board member for the New Castle Community School Corporation.
U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett announced the charges Tuesday morning. Investigators say Fleming lied when being asked about a criminal complaint filed against Darrell Hughes.
Hughes was charged last month on three counts of sexual exploitation of a child and attempted exploitation of a child.
Investigators say Hughes committed the crimes while he was a counselor with the New Castle School Corporation.
Investigators went to interview Fleming last month while he was the director of the Henry County Department of Child Services. They were trying to learn if DCS had any record of complaints filed against Hughes.
According to the criminal complaint, Fleming denied knowing of any complaints of inappropriate behavior by Hughes when asked by federal agents. Fleming was also served a subpoena to testify in front of a grand jury.
The complaint states that on Feb. 18, Fleming again denied knowing of any complaints regarding Hughes in front of a federal grand jury.
On Feb. 24, the complaint states DCS officials informed federal agents that Fleming had been fired for encouraging another DCS employee to make false statements in the Hughes investigation.
According to the compliant, Fleming told the employee that he gave inaccurate information to the grand jury saying, “I didn’t tell them anything, I guess I told a little white lie, if anyone asks don’t say anything.”
The complaint states the employee reported Fleming’s statements to a supervisor.
U.S. Attorney Hogsett said, “Interfering with an investigation will not be tolerated by this office. But when crime involves the exploitation of Hoosier children and lying by a public official, it is even more egregious.”
Hogsett also said investigators believe Fleming had knowledge of the allegations against Hughes as far back as 2011.
“I just think that person should be held accountable for his actions,” said parent Jeanie Smith. “He shouldn’t be on the school board anymore or have anything to do with school children at all.”
Parents like Smith were already trying to cope with the news surrounding Hughes. Hearing a potential cover-up might have been happening for years only made matters worse.
“I hope when he’s old enough to be in school that I don’t hear stuff like this,” said mother Stephanie Hampton, as she pointed to her 2-year-old son. “I may not want to send him around here.”
Fleming could face up to 13 years in prison if convicted of his charges and fined up to $500,000.
24-Hour News 8 reached out to the superintendent for the New Castle School Corporation several times Tuesday to hear his reaction to the charges, and to find out if Fleming was still on the school board. Our calls were not returned.