Former IN lawmaker pleads guilty to felony campaign finance violations

Former Indiana State Sen. Darryl Brent Waltz has pleaded guilty to two felonies in federal court for taking illegal campaign contributions from a casino and lying to the FBI.

On Monday, Waltz, 48, of Greenwood, pleaded guilty to making and receiving conduit contributions and making false statements to the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana announced.  He faces up to five years in prison for each offense, with Judge James R. Sweeney II presiding over the sentencing.

Waltz and former state Rep. John Keeler, whose trial is scheduled to begin April 18, were indicted in 2020 as part of the investigation.  Keeler has pleaded not guilty.

Waltz was indicted on five counts alleging conspiracy, false statements, falsification of documents, obstruction of justice and receipt of illegal campaign contributions. Keeler, a former top executive with Spectacle Entertainment, was indicted on four counts alleging the facilitation of illegal campaign contributions.

The alleged scheme used straw donors to illegally funnel around $40,0000 in casino money to Waltz’s unsuccessful 2016 campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives. The indictments refer to conduct dating back 2015, when Keeler was vice president and general counsel of the gaming company New Centaur LLC.

Last October, additional charges related to tax evasion were imposed on Keeler. The charges accuse him of filing corporate tax returns for Centaur Holdings that falsely listed $79,500 in consultant payments as deductions in 2015 and another $41,000 in fake consultant payments in 2016, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal.

Allegations against Waltz and Keeler led the Indiana Gaming Commission to begin an investigation that impacted the construction of a casino in Terre Haute and the ownership of a casino in Gary.

According to the indictment, Keeler worked with political consultants Kelley Rogers and Charles “Chip” O’Neil to hatch a campaign finance scheme designed to skirt the prohibition on corporate contributions to congressional campaigns and the $2,700 contribution limit in place at the time.

O’Neil pleaded guilty to conspiracy in a Virginia federal court in July 2020, admitting he helped collect donations from small donors in the names of candidates who never received the money.

The IBJ contributed to this report. 

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