INDIANAPOLIS — A former area representative is now facing federal charges according to a press release from the United States Attorney General’s office released Friday morning.
Sean Eberhart, 57, a former member of the Indiana House of Representatives, has agreed to plead guilty to conspiring with others to solicit and receive the promise of future, lucrative employment with a gaming company in exchange for his support of legislation beneficial to the gaming company.
The United States Attorney’s Office filed the charge along with Eberhart’s agreement to plead guilty to fraud. According to the release, Eberhart has signed paperwork to plead guilty to a federal felony charge related to his conduct as a lawmaker, specifically related to Spectacle Entertainment’s bid to relocate two casinos from Lake Michigan to “other areas beneficial to Spectacle.”
Eberhart was the elected representative for Indiana House District 57, which included Shelby County and portions of Bartholomew and Hancock counties. He assumed office in 2006. He left office on Nov. 9, 2022.
Eberhart served on the House Committee on Public Policy, which had jurisdiction over matters concerning casinos and gaming in Indiana.
According to the release, in late 2018 and early 2019, a gaming company called Spectacle Entertainment sought to purchase the state licenses for two casinos located on the waterfront of Lake Michigan, and to relocate those casinos to other areas beneficial to Spectacle.
Purchases and relocation of casinos in Indiana must be approved through the passage of a bill by both houses of the Indiana legislature, then signed by the Governor.
A bill to allow Spectacle’s purchases and relocation was introduced in the Indiana House and considered by the House Committee on Public Policy. In addition to approving the purchases and relocation of the casinos, the bill included provisions for Spectacle to pay a “transfer fee.”
According to the federal charges, an owner of Spectacle, identified as Individual A, offered, and Eberhart accepted, the promise of future employment at Spectacle, which included annual compensation of at least $350,000.
In exchange, officials noted in the release, Eberhart allegedly used his position as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives to advocate and ultimately vote for passage of the bill on terms 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. Additionally, Eberhart allegedly sent text messages regarding his efforts to secure legislation favorable to Spectacle and to “make it right for” Individual A.
A plea agreement in the case was officially filed Thursday evening, officials said. Evidence of Eberhart’s involvement, according to the document, includes: texts, recorded calls, scans of documents, “covert recordings of conversations” and video from legislative proceedings.
The plea to conspiracy to commit honest services fraud can include accepting bribes or kickbacks related to one’s public service and includes a maximum punishment of five years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. Eberhart could serve between 37 and 46 months, according to the 2016 sentencing guidelines.
Eberhart left the state legislature last year after 16 years where he played a role in casino legislation benefiting the facility in Shelbyville.
The charges were announced by Zachary A. Myers, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, and Herbert J. Stapleton, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office.