INDIANAPOLIS — A former Indiana state representative has pleaded guilty in federal court to a felony fraud charge as part of an FBI investigation.
Former State Rep. Sean Eberhart pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, according to court documents filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana shortly after 4:30 p.m. on Thursday. The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of up to five years, up to a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
Although the former state representative has not been sentenced yet, Eberhart has agreed to pay a restitution fee of $60,000, court documents said.
The charges stem from Eberhart’s time as a member of the House Committee on Public Policy between 2018 and 2019 when he allegedly conspired with a gaming company called Spectacle Entertainment to provide legislative support in exchange for future employment with the company, according to the U.S. District Court for Southern District of Indiana.
The House Committee on Public Policy has jurisdiction over decisions involving casinos and gaming within the state.
Eberhart is accused of conspiring with Spectacle Entertainment as the company sought to purchase the state licenses for ownership of two casinos that were located near Lake Michigan at the time and relocate them for business purposes.
A bill must be passed in both houses of the Indiana legislature any time a company wishes to purchase or relocate a casino, with the governor making the final decision.
The federal charges describe how an unidentified owner of Spectacle Entertainment offered Eberhart future employment, including a reported compensation of $350,000 as long as the former state representative used his political platform to vote in favor of a bill “on terms that would be favorable to Spectacle, including to authorize the transfer and relocation of the two casinos, reducing the transfer fee from $100 million to $20 million, and enacting tax incentives that would benefit Spectacle,” according to court documents.
The FBI reportedly found evidence of text messages allegedly exchanged between Eberhart and the Spectacle contact in which Eberhart signaled his intent to “make it right” for the company and individual.
Additional evidence collected by the FBI included “text message communications to and from EBERHART, call records involving EBERHART digital images of documents sent to and/or received from EBERHART and others, covert recordings of conversations with EBERHART, and audio and video recordings and other records of statements and actions in the Indiana legislature.”
Although the plea agreement did not provide a specific sentence for Eberhart, court documents detail that prosecutors are open to recommending the lowest possible sentence to comply with federal guidelines that have been set forth by the U.S. District Court for Southern District of Indiana.
Court documents said this recommended minimum sentence is contingent on Eberhart fully accepting responsibility for his alleged role in the fraud case, that he avoids committing any new criminal offense before any sentencing commences and that he does not violate the terms of any pre-trial release before any sentencing hearing.
Eberhart represented District 57, which includes Shelby County and portions of Hancock and Bartholomew counties, during his previous stint as a state representative. He served in the role from 2006 until he left office on Nov. 9, 2022.
The former state representative also served on several committees, including a period as the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee and a member of the House Environmental Affairs Committee.