The beginning of the week saw former state lawmaker and casino executive John Keeler make a guilty plea in federal court. Mr. Keeler pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns associated with a scheme aimed at secretly channeling casino money to a Republican Party political action committee (PAC) in Marion County.
The former Indiana legislator made his guilty plea only an hour before the beginning of his trial in federal court. A week earlier, the ex-state Senator Brent Waltz, a co-defendant in the same trial, also pleaded guilty.
As part of his plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to dismiss 5 other charges against Mr. Keeler, who has faced an imprisonment sentence of up to 3 years but is likely to receive a smaller term under the provisions of the deal. Furthermore, the former Indiana lawmaker and casino executive will have to pay $14,350 in restitution, which equates to the tax losses. The federal court has not yet scheduled when the official announcement of his sentence will take place.
This is not the first time when Mr. Keeler is facing such an accusation. Back in 2015, he faced an accusation of participating in a similar scheme to donate over $40,000 worth of casino money to the failed bid of Waltz to the US House. Those charges, however, were dropped as part of the guilty plea agreement.
Keeler Confesses He Participated in Tax Fraud Involving Casino Money
The lawsuit was linked to a federal public corruption probe involving the owner of the only horse racetrack casinos in Anderson and Shelbyville – New Centaur LLC – where Keeler acted as general counsel and vice president.
Now, as part of his plea agreement, he confessed to having worked with a political consultant from another state to misappropriate and channel $25,000 to the Greater Indianapolis Republican Finance Committee – a political action committee associated with the Republican Party in Marion County.
The plea deal revealed that the Republican Party was facing some financial difficulties in 2016. Mr. Keeler was willing to help the party but believed that political contributions of casino operators were not allowed under the gambling law of Indiana State at the time. So, in order to hide the actual source of funding, he and Kelley Rogers, a political consultant from Maryland, agreed that one of Roger’s companies would send a fake invoice to New Centaur. After that, the majority of the contribution went to the Republican Finance Committee of Greater Indianapolis.
An invoice for services linked to the horse racing business of New Centaur was sent by Rogers to John Keeler on April 15th, 2016, with a $41,000 payment being authorized by Mr. Keeler who passed the Committee’s account information to Rogers and informed some officials of the Marion County Republican Party that the donation was on its way.
The following week saw Rogers make contributions worth $25,000 to the Finance Committee, with the money for the donations originating from New Centaur. At the time when the company filed its taxes, it claimed the initial $41,000 political contribution was a business expense, although the contribution was already marked as a non-deductible expense as it was linked to supporting candidates for public office.