Federal prosecutors said Friday that a former Indiana lawmaker will plead guilty to a federal charge that he accepted lucrative gaming firm employment promises while in office.
Dishonest Service Fraud Of Indiana Lawmaker
According to court documents released Thursday, Sean Eberhart, 57, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct honest services fraud. The maximum penalty is five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. We called Eberhart’s attorney Friday but he declined to respond. Court records showed no plea hearing for Eberhart as of Friday afternoon. After 16 years in central Indiana’s House District 57, the Republican state lawmaker resigned in November 2022. Prosecutors said he accepted cash and potential employment for General Assembly favors. In late 2018, Spectacle Entertainment wanted to buy two casinos and their state licenses on Lake Michigan in Gary, Indiana, and move them to downtown Gary and Vigo County, according to court records.
The U.S. Attorney’s office stated in a press statement that the Legislature and governor must approve casino transactions and relocations. Friday saw the shutdown of many Spectacle phone numbers online. In 2019, the Indiana House Committee on Public Policy oversaw casinos and gaming and examined a relocation bill including a “transfer fee.” Documents show Eberhart served on the House Public Policy Committee. According to authorities, Eberhart lobbied and voted for the bill’s relocation approval, transfer fee reduction from $100 million to $20 million, and tax incentives for Spectacle.
Indiana Lawmaker “Makes It Right” in Favor of the Casino
Authorities said Eberhart accepted Spectacle’s offer of at least $350,000 annual pay. Eberhart texted text messages about his efforts to pass laws favoring the firm, stating he would “make it right for” Spectacle founder “Individual A.” according to court filings. The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not immediately react on whether Individual A is under investigation or will be charged. Investigators also found phone records, digital pictures of papers, “covert recordings of conversations with Eberhart,” audio and video recordings, and “other records of statements and actions in the Indiana legislature,” court filings claimed. Republican House Speaker Todd Huston told The Associated Press that he is “beyond disappointed and extremely frustrated” by Eberhart’s alleged behavior. Any such behavior, according to Huston, goes against our core beliefs and everything our assembly stands for and works to safeguard – a trusted, credible, and transparent organization accountable only to Hoosiers.
Federal inquiries have plagued Spectacle. Former Indiana state legislator Brent Waltz and longtime casino executive John Keeler were imprisoned in 2022 for illegally funneling gambling money into Waltz’s 2016 congressional campaign. Keeler, a Republican politician who served for 16 years in the 1980s and 1990s, was sentenced to two months in federal prison and fined $55,000. Following Keeler and Waltz’s indictments in 2020, the Indiana Gaming Commission relieved Spectacle of ownership of two casino projects.