FORT WAYNE – Five people were charged Wednesday in a scheme that authorities say involved about $1 million in illegal payments to purported volunteers who ran charitable bingo games at American Legion Post 330 in New Haven.
Investigators with the Indiana Gaming Commission believe that within the last five years between $988,000 and $1,040,000 was paid to managers and workers who ran the post’s bingo games, according to Allen Superior Court documents.
The post’s gaming license, which allowed the group to host charitable bingo events three nights a week, expired July 31 and has not been renewed, court records said.
The five people accused of skimming money that was intended, in part, to go toward charitable causes are all from New Haven.
Lana Brooks, 55, who allegedly managed the bingo games, is charged with corrupt business influence, theft, professional gambling and unlawful charity gaming contracting. Her husband and post trustee, Kenneth Brooks, 64, faces charges of aiding theft and aiding unlawful charity gaming contracting.
Steven H. Bouse, 60, another alleged bingo manager, faces the same charges as Lana Brooks.
James E. Schultz, 68, the post’s current finance officer, faces the same charges as Kenneth Brooks.
John Gahan, 67, who was the post’s finance officer off and on from 2006 through June 2010, is charged with aiding corrupt business influence, aiding theft, professional gambling and aiding unlawful charity gaming contracting.
According to court records, Gahan told investigators that the post’s finance committee would meet at 7 a.m. every Monday. At those meetings, $1,000 in cash was put in two white envelopes to be delivered to Bouse and Lana Brooks, Gahan told the investigators.
A 71-year-old woman, who has not been charged, would take the envelopes from the post’s offices to Richards restaurant in New Haven, where they would be given to Bouse and Lana Brooks or her husband.
During a stakeout on April 18, state agents witnessed one of these deliveries. The 71-year-old courier passed the envelopes to the restaurant cashier who placed them in her apron and handed one of them to Kenneth Brooks as he sat at a corner table, court records said.
On April 25, an agent also reported seeing Kenneth Brooks leave the restaurant with two white envelopes. On June 13, agents sat at a table next to Kenneth and Lana Brooks and saw the elderly courier give Lana Brooks a white envelope. Lana Brooks then gave the envelope to her husband, telling him “take this and do not lose it.”
On June 27, investigators with a search warrant seized two white envelopes from the courier in the Richards parking lot. The envelopes both contained $1,000; “Lana Brooks” was written on one, and “Steve Bouse” was written on the other, court records said.
During an interview with gaming officers, Lana Brooks admitted she was paid “to run Bingo” and that receiving payments to do so was illegal. She told them that Schultz had authorized the payments to her and Bouse and that Gahan had established the system of weekly $1,000 payments.
According to court records, Gahan told investigators that everyone on the post board knew about the payments to Lana Brooks, Bouse and the gaming night workers. He reported that $3,800 to $4,000 was paid weekly to the gaming workers and managers.
Gahan told investigators Bouse and Lana Brooks were at first paid 25 percent of the net proceeds from bingo, but in 2008, their compensation was lowered to $1,000 per week. He said there would be no record of this decision because a tape recorder used to tape post board meetings was turned off when charity gaming was discussed.
Schultz, the post’s current finance officer, told investigators that he knew Lana Brooks and Bouse were paid to manage the post’s bingo games. Vernon Criswell, who’s been the post commander since November 2010, told investigators he was unaware of the illegal payments to bingo managers and workers.
On Wednesday, the post’s attorney, Randy Fisher, told The Journal Gazette that the post remains open but there has been no charity gaming since July.