Former Indiana state senator could serve 10 years behind bars

INDIANAPOLIS — A former state senator from Greenwood could serve up to 10 years in prison after admitting in court to campaign finance violations and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation two years after the federal agents raided his condominium.

On April 11, Brent Waltz, 48, pleaded guilty in federal court to two felony charges: making and receiving conduit contributions and making false statements to the FBI. He faces up to five years in prison for each of the charges.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the charges stem from Waltz’s 2016 U.S. congressional campaign when the former state senator ran in the 2016 Republican primary for the U.S. House of Representatives Ninth District. Waltz, along with a 71-year-old Indiana casino executive John S. Keeler, were accused and charged in 2020 of being part of a “straw donors” plot that violated federal campaign finance law.

Previously, authorities said Keeler, vice president of New Centaur LLC, arranged to transfer thousands of dollars to Kelley Rogers, a political consultant for Waltz, who then contributed money to Waltz’s campaign.

Federal prosecutors said Keeler and Rogers concealed the contributions by creating phony invoices and agreements that appeared to be for services performed for New Centaur. Rogers recruited several “straw donors,” who contributed $2,700 to the campaign—the maximum individual contribution permitted under federal law at the time.

Keeler pleaded guilty to paying and receiving secret political contributions through a middleman on April 18. Keeler admitted to funneling $41,000 in New Centaur corporate funds to a Maryland-based entity under Kelly Rogers’s control. Rogers used this entity to contribute funds to the Greater Indianapolis Republican Finance Committee to benefit the Marion County Republican Central Committee.

Keeler then falsely reported the political contributions to the IRS as deductible business expenses.

Waltz was one of the straw donors, according to court documents. Others were friends and associates of Rogers.

Rogers used the money Keeler and New Centaur provided to reimburse the donors, according to court documents. A large portion of the money also went to Waltz, federal prosecutors said, who recruited more “straw donors” and used the money to reimburse them or pay them in advance.

Waltz’s straw donors included relatives and business associates.

The U.S. Department of Justice reported that Waltz admitted to funneling $40,500 in illegal conduit contributions into his 2016 congressional campaign.

Waltz and Keeler concealed the contributions from campaign officials, federal prosecutors said, causing them to unwittingly file materially false reports with the Federal Election Commission.

The FBI raided Waltz Greenwood condo in late September of 2020. His charges, along with Keelers, were announced soon after.

After pleading guilty, Waltz and Keeler are scheduled to be sentenced by the U.S. District Court at a later date.

Keeler faces up to three years in prison.

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