Ex-Indiana lawmaker convicted over casino money scheme


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A former Indiana state senator was sentenced Wednesday to 10 months in prison for his role in a scheme that illegally funneled money from a casino company to his unsuccessful campaign in 2016 Congress.

The federal investigation into Republican Brent Waltz’s campaign contributions linked to a former casino executive led the Indiana Gaming Commission to force the company out of its lucrative ownership of new casino projects in Gary and Terre Haute. .

Waltz, 48, of Greenwood, pleaded guilty in April to helping funnel around $40,000 in illegal campaign contributions and making false statements to the FBI.

Waltz said during Wednesday’s hearing that his “biggest regret” was that his actions tarnished his reputation as a public servant, which included 12 years as a state senator representing the southern suburbs of Indianapolis, reported The Indianapolis Star.

Federal prosecutors had requested the 10-month sentence. U.S. District Judge James Sweeney, who also fined Waltz $40,500, could have sentenced him to up to five years in prison on each count.

A sentencing hearing was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon for John Keeler, a former senior executive at Indianapolis-based Centaur Gaming.

Keeler, a lawyer who served as a Republican lawmaker for 16 years in the 1980s and 1990s, pleaded guilty in April to filing a false tax return for claiming $41,000 as a business expense that the casino company had paid to a political consultant who prosecutors say made the contributions through straw donors.

Centaur Gaming sold two Indiana casinos at two racetracks to Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment Corp. in 2018 for $1.7 billion. Keeler and longtime Indiana casino heavyweight Rod Ratcliff then led a group that later formed Spectacle Entertainment to buy the operation of Gary’s casino.

The September 2020 indictment against Keeler and Waltz resulted in Spectacle Entertainment being forced out of ownership of the Gary and Terre Haute casino projects now run by other companies.

The state gaming commission also raised allegations of financial misconduct against Ratcliff, who agreed to give up his state casino license and quit the gambling industry. Ratcliff did not face any charges. criminal.

Federal prosecutors urged the judge to sentence Waltz and Keeler to at least 10 months in prison to deter similar crimes by others. Prosecutors described both men as wealthy with successful careers.

“None of this was enough for either defendant,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing. “They wanted more and they chose to commit crimes of opportunity – not economic necessity – to get what they wanted.”

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