A former gaming executive once connected to Terre Haute’s casino aspirations pleaded guilty today to federal offenses in connection with illicit campaign contributions, according to federal prosecutors.
John Keeler 72, of Indianapolis, formerly the executive with New Centaur LLC, pleaded guilty to causing the casino company to make false statements on its federal tax return
U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Myers for the Southern District of Indiana announced the plea; He was joined by officials from the Justice Department, FBI and IRS.
Prosecutors said Keeler paid $ 41,000 in New Centaur corporate funds to a middleman – Maryland-based political consultant Kelley Rogers – and directed him to funnel $ 25,000 to a local political party committee in Marion County to admit its efforts, the government said.
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 for his deductible business expense.
Keeler’s plea came about an hour before his trial was to start in Indianapolis. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop five other counts against him.
Last week, Brent Waltz, 48, of Greenwood, a former Indiana State Senator and 2016 candidate for U.S. Congress, pleaded guilty to charges of the same indictment: .
Keeler faces up to three years in prison, and Waltz faces up to 10 years. Sentences will be determined by U.S. District Judge James R. Sweeney II at a later date. Sentences are typically less than the maximums.
Keeler was a Spectacle Entertainment vice president and his chief legal counsel when the September 2020 indictment became public and the Indiana Gaming Commission announced it was an intern.
That investigation led to the commission’s forcing Spectacle out of its ownership of projects for new casinos in Gary and Terre Haute.
The commission also raised financial misconduct claims against former Spectacle CEO Rod Ratcliff, who also was a former Centaur executive. A heavyweight in the state’s gaming industry. He has not been charged in the campaign finance case.
Hard Rock International took over the Gary casino project.
In Terre Haute, businessman Greg Gibson broke away from Spectacle for building purposes and Terre Haute casino. He formed Lucy Luck Gaming LLC and secured the new licensed license for Vigo County.
Before construction began, however, the Indiana Gaming Commission in June 2021 declined to renew Lucy Luck’s license. He cited failure to hire the executive team and failure to secure fully vetted financing.
In the ensuing licensing process before the Indiana Gaming Commission, Churchill Downs Inc. was selected in November 2021 over three competitors.
Churchill Downs has said that it will have $ 190 million annual economic impact and create 1,000 construction jobs as well as 500 permanent positions. Construction on the city’s east side is slated to begin later this spring. Churchill Downs says it expects to open in late 2023.
– The Associated Press also contributed to this report.