Former Indiana state lawmaker, Sean Eberhart, has agreed to plead guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced on Friday. The 57-year-old Republican representative is facing a maximum sentence of five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.
Eberhart’s guilty plea comes after allegations that he accepted compensation and the promise of future employment from a gaming company in exchange for taking favorable action in the General Assembly. Court documents filed on Thursday revealed that Eberhart used his position to advocate and vote for passage of a bill that would benefit the company, Spectacle Entertainment.
The bill involved the relocation of two casinos and their state licenses from Lake Michigan to downtown Gary and Vigo County. Eberhart, who was a member of the House Committee on Public Policy, played a crucial role in advancing the legislation on terms favorable to Spectacle, including reducing the transfer fee and enacting tax incentives benefiting the company.
In exchange for his efforts, Eberhart allegedly accepted promises of future annual compensation of at least $350,000 from Spectacle. The evidence obtained by investigators includes text messages, call records, digital images of documents, covert recordings of conversations, and audio and video recordings related to Eberhart’s actions in the Indiana legislature.
Republican Speaker of the House Todd Huston expressed disappointment and frustration over Eberhart’s alleged actions, stating that they run counter to the core values of the legislative assembly.
It is not the first time Spectacle Entertainment has been embroiled in federal investigations. In 2022, longtime casino executive John Keeler and former Indiana state senator Brent Waltz were sentenced for their roles in the illegal funneling of gambling money into Waltz’s unsuccessful 2016 bid for congress. Keeler was sentenced to two months in federal prison, while Waltz was sentenced to 10 months for helping route illegal contributions to his campaign.
The case against Eberhart adds to the list of controversies involving gaming and legislative officials in Indiana, raising concerns about ethical conduct and transparency within the state’s political and gaming sectors.