MUSKOGEE — Six contractors and construction management officials pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges related to bribery schemes involving Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma casino construction projects.
Co-conspirators used money generated by false billings and bribery schemes to finance lavish purchases and travel, including $855,625 spent at Louis Vuitton, $252,061 at Saks Fifth Avenue, $166,695 at Tiffany and Co., and $147,764 at Exclusive Resorts.
At least 52 firearms and firearm-related equipment valued at more than $104,000 also were purchased.
Doug Horn, first assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, estimated the financial loss to the tribe at about $7 million and said about $6 million in restitution already has been made.
Pleading guilty Monday in Muskogee federal court were two former Tulsa executives with Builders Steel Corp., two former construction management officials for Tulsa-based Flintco, a former Scott Rice office furniture sales executive and a former Choctaw Nation project manager for the Durant Casino and Hotel construction project.
Builders Steel President Lauri Ann Parsons, 45, and her husband, Brent Alan Parsons, 46, carried out three separate schemes to bribe officials and defraud the Choctaw Nation, according to a news release issued by the Muskogee U.S. attorney's office.
The illegal acts were committed from 2008 through 2010.
One scheme involved providing trips, vehicles, firearms, property, furniture, tuition, mortgage payments and other gifts to employees of the Choctaw Nation and Flintco. The gifts were provided in order to obtain bidding preference, higher prices and huge cash advances for services and materials not delivered, according to the news release.
The second scheme involved conspiring to submit $345,000 in false invoices from Scott Rice to the Choctaw Nation. Proceeds allegedly were used to make a $25,000 deposit on an African safari and to purchase firearms, furniture and gifts.
The third scheme, carried out by Brent Parsons and other uncharged co-conspirators, involved agreeing to submit a false invoice from the Worth Group, which designed casinos and parking garages for the Choctaw Nation. Proceeds from that scheme were used to pay for $160,000 in trophy game killed by Brent Parsons and an uncharged co-conspirator at the Heartland Wildlife Ranch in Missouri.
James Winfield Stewart, 43, of Porter, a former salesman for Scott Rice in Oklahoma City who later worked as a salesman for Builders Steel, pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme to submit false invoices from Scott Rice.
Cordell Alan Bugg, 47, of Tulsa, a former Flintco vice president who was involved in the selection of contractors for the casino construction project, pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from Builders Steel and Lauri Parsons.
The bribes included a new 2009 Chevrolet Suburban, private school tuition payments for his children and mortgage payments, according to the federal charge.
Another former Flintco employee, Jerry Mark Eshenroder, 54, of Las Vegas, Nevada, pleaded guilty Monday to bribing Choctaw Nation project manager Allen Mark Franklin, 48, of Durant.
Eshenroder agreed to have Flintco give Franklin granite counter tops, appliances and other items to remodel the kitchen at his personal residence in order to influence business with the Choctaw Nation, according to the news release.
Lauri and Brent Parsons, Bugg, Stewart, Eshenroder and Franklin all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft or bribery.
Brent Parsons and Stewart also pleaded guilty to money-laundering charges.
All six individuals who entered guilty pleas waived their rights to jury trials and will be sentenced later. They all have agreed to help in the continuing investigation in exchange for possible reductions in their prison sentences.
Conspiracy to commit theft or bribery carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, while money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Flintco Chief Executive Officer Tom Maxwell issued a prepared statement Monday stating that actions taken by former employees Eshenroder and Bugg were “clearly in conflict with company policy.”
Maxwell said there is a third former Flintco employee who is still under investigation but has not yet been charged. He said his company is cooperating with federal authorities and is not at liberty to name the other former employee.
“When Flintco learned of potential improprieties, we conducted an internal investigation which began prior to our knowledge of the federal grand jury investigation,” Maxwell said.
“Our company's investigation revealed that three employees … accepted improper benefits from representatives of Builders Steel during work performed for the Choctaw Nation.”
“Flintco sincerely regrets this isolated incident and the negative impact it has had on the Choctaw Nation,” he said.
Documents filed by federal prosecutors make references to three co-conspirators who have not been charged, including one who was the executive director of construction administration for the Choctaw Nation, another who was a senior employee of Flintco, and a third who was the president of the Worth Group.
Horn said the alleged co-conspirators who have not been charged are either assisting in the investigation or could be charged as the investigation continues.
Funds from Builders Steel were used to purchase a lake home near Mannford for the unnamed co-conspirator who was a senior Flintco employee at a cost of more than $277,000, prosecutors allege.
Brent and Lauri Parsons paid $100,000 for two tracts of land in Pushmataha County that were bought for the future benefit of the two minor children of the unnamed co-conspirator who worked as executive director of construction administration for the Choctaw Nation, prosecutors also allege.
CONTRIBUTING: SUSAN HYLTON, TULSA WORLD