TULSA — Six people linked to the construction of a Choctaw Nation casino pleaded guilty to bribery charges, federal prosecutors announced Monday.
Five of the six people — Lauri Parsons, her husband Brent Parsons, Cordell Bugg, James Stewart, and Mark Eshenroder — owned or worked for companies that performed work or sold materials for the construction of the Durant casino, the U.S. attorney’s office for the eastern district of Oklahoma said. The other person, Allen Franklin, was a project manager for the tribe.
All six were charged with conspiracy to commit theft or bribery of programs that receive federal funds, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In addition, Brent Parsons was charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and Stewart was charged with money laundering. Each of those counts is punishable by up to 10 years behind bars.
According to prosecutors, the Parsons owned Builders Steel, a Tulsa company that sold steel to the tribe, and Stewart worked for the company. Bugg and Eshenroder worked for Flintco, a Tulsa-based construction management company hired by the tribe.
Attempts to locate their attorneys through court records were unsuccessful.
The Choctaw Nation said in a statement Monday that a routine audit relating to the casino project found discrepancies from the purchase of steel from Builders Steel, and eventually revealed the tribe had been overcharged for those purchases. The tribe said the matter was turned over to federal investigators.
“The Choctaw Nation expects to be made whole with respect to any losses,” the statement, which did not comment on former employee Franklin, said. “Since legal proceedings are presently ongoing, it is not appropriate for the nation to comment further at this time.
Flintco issued a statement Monday saying it regretted the harm caused to the Choctaws and disclosed that a third, unnamed former employee, was under investigation. It didn’t name the former worker, but said it was cooperating with the investigation.