August 29, 2014

Former state senator agrees to plead guilty to federal wire fraud

A former state senator who already pleaded guilty to state charges of failing to report the use of campaign funds to gamble has now agreed to plead guilty to a federal wire fraud charge.

Former Sen. Brenda Council of Omaha has confessed to using more than $63,000 in campaign funds to gamble at a casino in Kansas City, Kansas.

Council’s lawyer, Vince Powers, says Council agreed to plead guilty after the federal prosecution team agreed to request the federal judge place Council on probation.

Council last year entered a guilty plea in Lancaster County District Court in Lincoln to the state charges. She was ordered to pay a $250 fine on each of two counts, plus ordered to pay court costs.

Campaign bank accounts and casino records subpoenaed by the Nebraska Attorney General’s office indicate Council withdrew $63,052.56 in campaign funds to gamble at a casino in Kansas City, Kansas. The Attorney General said the investigation uncovered $36,166.32 in unreported/prohibited deposits were made between January of 2010 and July of 2012 as well.

“We all fall down, what I’m doing right now is getting back up,” Council told reporters in a brief statement after her court appearance nearly a year ago. “I have admitted to myself and everyone else that I had a gambling problem. I’m receiving treatment for that.”

Council was officially charged with two state misdemeanor counts of abuse of public records for failing to report expenditures from her campaign account. State law requires that expenditures of campaign funds be disclosed on campaign finance reports.

Council stated her gambling problem compromised her judgment.

Council lost her re-election bid in the fall to former state Sen. Ernie Chambers, who held the seat until term limits forced him out for a term.

Assistant United States Attorney Jan Sharp says Council is scheduled to appear in court on the 12th to face sentencing on the federal charge.