by: Susan Hylton
Six people were charged and pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in connection with a bribery investigation involving the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, former Flintco employees and a host of subcontracting agencies involved with casino construction projects.
The bribes included lavish trips by private jet, vehicles, hunting and golf trips, an African safari, firearms, tuition payments for private school, a lake home, furniture, kitchen remodels and more than $1 million spent on expensive gifts, including at least $855,000 spent at Louis Vuitton, according to the charges.
Lauri Ann Parsons, owner of Builders Steel, and her husband, Brent Alan Parsons, vice president of Builders Steel; Cordell Alan Bugg, former vice president of Flintco’s pre-construction services; and James Winfield Stewart, a sales executive for Scott Rice, an office furniture company, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit theft or bribery. Brent Parsons and Stewart also pleaded guilty to money-laundering charges.
In addition, Mark Eshenroder, Flintco’s former project manager for the Durant casino and hotel construction project, and Allen Mark Franklin, the Durant-based tribe’s project manager, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft or bribery.
Stewart is accused of sending false invoices from the Scott Rice office furniture company through Flintco to the tribe for payment.
The funds were deposited into his business account for his and the Parsonses benefit to pay for guns, furniture and a down payment on an African safari trip, the charges say. The government estimates that he defrauded the tribe by about $345,000.
Stewart later became a sales executive for Builders Steel in September 2010. Records show that Lauri and Brent Parsons told the tribe that it could save money by prepurchasing about $14 million worth of steel.
The tribe made an initial $4.25 million payment to Builders Steel, but the company did not actually purchase all the steel it said it would, records show.
Flintco, a Tulsa-based construction company, issued a statement Monday saying that the company has been cooperating with the federal investigation. The firm also apologized to the Choctaw Nation.
Two Flintco employees were fired after an internal investigation, and another “left the company prior to our knowledge of any potential wrongdoing,” CEO Tom Maxwell said in the statement.
“Our company recognizes the Choctaw Nation was adversely impacted by the actions of Builders Steel who influenced former Flintco employees and others to commit certain wrongdoings,” he said.
The Parsonses, along with Bugg and his wife, are accused of taking a trip to New York City in July 2008 on Builders Steel’s tab.
The lavish trip included accommodations at the Ritz Carlton Hotel and about $50,000 in purchases from Louis Vuitton, the charges say.
That same month the Parsonses, through Builders Steel, paid for the Bugg family to fly to San Diego, Calif., a flight worth more than $4,000, according to the charges.
In November, the Parsonses had their company pay for a Las Vegas trip for them and the Buggs, and they stayed at the Wynn Vegas Hotel for more than $8,200, according to the charges.
Brent Parsons is also accused of arranging a Pebble Beach golf trip attended by the executive director of construction administration for the tribe, who is named as an alleged co-conspirator who is not charged, and a former Flintco project manager, who is also named as an uncharged alleged co-conspirator.
Other trips include a $97,000 trip by private jet to Acoma, N.M., to hunt big game, and private jet trips to Dallas and Mexico.
The Parsonses are also alleged to have used their company to buy Bugg a new Chevrolet Suburban and pay off the debt on his Volvo. The Suburban was seized in the investigation.
They are accused of selling a 2009 Cadillac Escalade to the tribe’s executive director of construction administration for $25,000. Records show that Builders Steel had purchased the Escalade for nearly $80,000 less than a year before.
Eshenroder is alleged to have arranged for Flintco to pay for a kitchen remodel worth more than $5,000 at Franklin’s personal residence.
The remodel included granite countertops, cabinets and flooring.
This article was written by Susan Hylton and originally published on tulsaworld