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Former Casino Executive and Ex-Indiana State Senator Both Plead Guilty to Lying About Contributions to Local GOP Election Committees

John Keeler speaking on panel on Jan. 10, 2019 (left); former Indiana state senator Brent Waltz (right)

John Keeler speaking on panel on Jan. 10, 2019 (left, via YouTube screengrab/U.S. District Court Southern District of Indiana); former Indiana state senator Brent Waltz (right, via YouTube screengrab)

A onetime Indiana state senator and a former casino executive have pleaded guilty to lying about political contributions to local GOP committees.

Darryl Brent Waltz, 48, of Greenwood, Indiana, is a former Indiana state senator who lost a 2016 bid for Congress. John Keeler, 72, is the former vice president and general counsel of New Centaur LLC, an Indiana-based casino company.

According to the Justice Department, the men conspired to “facilitate and cause unlawful and unreported corporate contributions from New Centaur, LLC, through [political consultant Kelley] Rogers and [Rogers’ employee and political consultant Charles ‘Chip‘] O’Neil, to the Brent Waltz for Congress campaign.”

Now, both men have pleaded guilty to crimes related to that alleged conspiracy.

“Two men have pleaded guilty to federal crimes for their roles in paying and receiving secret political contributions through a middleman,” a DOJ press release said. Keeler, specifically, pleaded guilty to “causing the casino company to make false statements on its federal tax return by concealing contributions to a local political party as deductible business expenses.”

Keeler’s plea comes just as his trial was about to get underway on Monday, according to court filings.

Waltz pleaded guilty last week to two felonies, according to a DOJ announcement on April 11. He admitted to “making and receiving conduit contributions, and making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” as part of a donation scheme involving sham donors the DOJ announcement said.

According to the DOJ, Keeler paid $41,000 in New Centaur corporate funds to Kelley Rogers, a Maryland-based political consultant, and directed Rogers to funnel $25,000 “to a local political party committee in Marion County, Indiana.”

That committee was reportedly the Greater Indianapolis Republican Finance Committee, a political action committee associated with the Marion County Republican Party.

“To further conceal the nature of the contribution, Keeler caused New Centaur’s federal tax return filed with the Internal Revenue Service to falsely describe the $41,000 payment to Rogers as a deductible business expense,” the DOJ press release said.

Keeler was also accused of pushing illegal corporate donations to Waltz’s 2016 election committee. Waltz, in turn, was accused of accepting donations through straw donors, many of whom were his relatives.

“A ‘straw donor’ is a person who contributes to a campaign in his or her name despite receiving an advance payment or subsequent reimbursement of all or a part of that contribution from another source, thereby acting as an intermediary between the true source of the contribution and the candidate or campaign that receives the contribution, which is prohibited under federal law,” the indictment against Waltz and Keeler said.

Waltz had served as a member of the Indiana state senate from 2004 to 2016. He lost his bid for the U.S. House of Representatives to Trey Hollingsworth, who ended up winning the seat in the general election.

Neither man pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge, which will presumably be dropped at the time they are sentenced.

Keeler faces up to three years in prison, according to the DOJ press release, while Waltz faces up to 10 years—five for each offense. U.S. District Judge James R. Sweeney II will sentence both men at a later date.

[Image via YouTube screengrab/United States District Court Southern District of Indiana.]

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