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Former GOP state representative agrees to plead guilty in casino scheme

Missing Gavel
Posted at 2:51 PM, Nov 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-10 14:55:16-05

INDIANAPOLIS — A former state lawmaker from Shelbyville agreed to plead guilty to a federal fraud charge in a conspiracy that would have netted him a six-figure job offer from a casino operator.

Sean Eberhart, 57, was pushed fellow lawmakers to pass measures benefiting Spectacle Entertainment in exchange for a $350,000-a-year job with the casino operator, according to documents filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis.

At the time, Eberhart was the state representative for House District 57, which included Shelby County and parts of Bartholomew and Hancock counties. He was a member of the public policy committee, the panel that held sway over gaming and casino laws in Indiana.

In 2018 and 2019, according to the federal charges, Eberhart advocated and voted in support of a series of measures benefiting Spectacle in exchange for the promise of a future job with the company. Eberhart left office in 2022.

Eberhart supported bills that, the government said, would have let Spectacle purchase and move two casinos; reduced casino transfer fees by $80 million; and awarded the company new tax incentives.

Eberhart, according to the charges, discussed the scheme on April 18, 2019, in text messages with someone identified in documents as "Person 1."

"You don't have to go into a lot of details but what gets changed to benefit (an unnamed casino company executive) so much?" Person 1 asked.

"Take a call?" Eberhart texted back.

Six days later, Eberhart and "Person 1" exchanged more text messages as the fate of legislation benefiting Spectacle was in jeopardy of failing, according to the charges.

Person 1: "(The unnamed executive) is losing his mind."

Eberhart: "Tell him to stay calm. We are going to let the (bill) simmer tonight."

Under a plea deal also filed Thursday, Eberhart agreed to plead guilty to a felony fraud charge and to pay $60,000 restitution.

The charge, Conspiracy to Commit Honest Services Fraud, carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, according to court records. Under the deal, the U.S. attorney's office agreed to recommend that the judge hand Eberhart a sentence on the "low-end of the advisory guideline range."

The plea agreement is not official until it is accepted by a judge. On Friday, a hearing date had not yet been scheduled.

Eberhart is the third former lawmaker to be sentenced in connection with the casino conspiracy.

  • In August 2022, former Republican Sen. Brent Waltz from Greenwood was sentenced to 10 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to making and receiving conduit contributions and making false statements to the FBI for his role in a scheme that illegally funneled casino company money to his failed 2016 campaign for a U.S. Congressional seat.
  • Also in August 2022, former GOP state senator and casino executive John S. Keeler was sentenced two months in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return in connection with casino funds illegally funneled to Waltz's campaign.

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at or on X/Twitter: @vicryc.