September 19, 2014

Former state senator pleads guilty to federal wire fraud charge

Former state Sen. Brenda Council/Photo courtesy of Unicameral Information Office

Former state Sen. Brenda Council/Photo courtesy of Unicameral Information Office

A former state senator who used $63,000 in campaign funds to gamble at a Kansas casino has pleaded guilty to a federal charge of wire fraud.

Former Sen. Brenda Council of Omaha, an attorney, had previously been convicted of two state misdemeanor counts for filing false campaign finance reports.

Council entered the plea in federal court. Prosecutors have agreed to seek only probation for Council during a sentencing hearing scheduled for December.

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.

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.

It was Chambers who filed the complaint that prompted the investigation by the United States Attorney’s office.