By Whitney Downard | Indiana Capital Chronicle
For The Republic
INDIANAPOLIS — Former Shelbyville Rep. Sean Eberhart pleaded guilty to a felony charge Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Matthew P. Brookman, admitting his role in a gambling corruption case.
The plea to conspiracy to commit honest services fraud can include accepting bribes or kickbacks related to one’s public service and includes a maximum punishment of five years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
Though federal prosecutors indicated that Eberhart didn’t act alone, no others have yet been named or charged. No sentencing hearing has been scheduled.
The charges stretch back to his lawmaker days, when Eberhart accepted a lucrative job opportunity with a major gaming company in exchange for his legislative support of a bill to relocate two casinos from Lake Michigan to “other areas beneficial to Spectacle (Entertainment),” according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
An unidentified owner at Spectacle offered Eberhart a job at the company with a salary of $350,000. Eberhart was a member of the House Public Policy Committee, which heard the bill, until his retirement last year. Due to lawmaker intervention, transfer fees for moving the casinos were reduced from $100 million to $20 million and included beneficial tax incentives — a win for Spectacle, which wanted to move the casinos to Terre Haute and Gary.
Spectacle ultimately lost the license due to financial issues.
Restitution in the case is $60,000 — the legislative salary for Eberhart — alongside a $100 fee for a mandatory special assessment.
In the courtroom at the Indianapolis Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse., U.S. Attorney Brad Shepard read several text exchanges between Eberhart and unnamed co-conspirators from early 2019 in which Eberhart said he wanted “to make it right” for the unidentified Spectacle owner and pushed language that would save Spectacle tens of millions of dollars in taxes.
–The Indiana Capital Chronicle covers state government and the state legislature. For more, visit indianacapitalchronicle.com.