Waltz, Keeler sentenced in straw donor scheme

By: - August 18, 2022 6:30 am

Former Sen. Brent Waltz received 10 months in prison Wednesday for straw donor scheme. (Screenshot of Waltz television ad)

A federal judge sentenced a former Indiana state senator and an Indianapolis casino executive  in separate hearings Wednesday following their straw donor scheme to illegally funnel donations to a failed congressional campaign and a Marion County Republican organization.

Brent Waltz received 10 months in prison and a $40,500 fine, while John Keeler got a 2-month sentence and $55,000 fine. 

U.S. District Judge James R. Sweeney II said he considered Keeler’s experience, both in the legislature for 16 years and as an attorney, in his sentencing.

“You are uniquely qualified, through your education and experience, to have known better and should be held at a higher standard,” Sweeney said. 

Waltz similarly spent 12 years as a state lawmaker.

Case background

In 2015, then a state senator, Waltz opted to run in Congressional District 9, in the southern part of the state. To bolster his fledgling campaign, Waltz enlisted Kelley Rogers to funnel illegal corporate contributions. He admitted to investigators — after twice lying in interviews — that he persuaded at least four others to become a straw donor and illegally donate funds in the names of other people, as detailed in court filings.

Keeler, previously a vice president and general counsel for New Centaur Gaming — a casino organization that owned the state’s horse racetracks at the time — sought to disguise a corporate donation to the Marion County Republican Central Committee, also using Rogers. 

Federal law prohibits casinos and casino executives from making political contributions.


The straw donor conspiracy ended after federal agents raided Rogers’ office in May of 2017 and seized reams of documents, including fake invoices and fraudulent tax filings.

A Virginia federal court convicted Rogers in 2020, sentencing him to three years in prison for wire fraud.

Both Waltz and Keeler pleaded guilty in April, and in return prosecutors dropped several charges. Waltz was convicted for the illegal contributions and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigations while Keeler pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return.

Wednesday ruling

Sweeney’s judgment conformed with the government recommendation for Waltz, but he modified Keeler’s sentence. In filings, attorneys with the federal government requested five months in prison, followed by one year of supervised release with five of those months under house arrest. Prosecutors also requested a $79,500 fine for Keeler, above the standard $55,000 maximum.

Sweeney ruled that Keeler will still be confined to his home for the first five months of his year under supervision.

The judge granted the defense’s request to serve his time in Federal Prison Camp Montgomery, in Alabama, at a minimum security facility.

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Whitney Downard
Whitney Downard

A native of upstate New York, Whitney previously covered statehouse politics for CNHI’s nine Indiana papers, focusing on long-term healthcare facilities and local government. Prior to her foray into Indiana politics, she worked as a general assignment reporter for The Meridian Star in Meridian, Mississippi. Whitney is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University (#GoBonnies!), a community theater enthusiast and cat mom.