Thursday, March 15, 2012

Corruption: Ex-Fiesta Bowl chief admits making illegal campaign contributions.

U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Arizona

PHOENIX—The former executive director of the Fiesta Bowl has admitted his role in the making of illegal federal campaign contributions by the bowl. John Junker, 56, of Phoenix, pleaded guilty on March 13, 2012 to one count of conspiracy in federal district court in Phoenix. Junker was executive director from 1990 until 2011.

Junker admitted that while serving as the Fiesta Bowl’s executive director, he conspired with others to solicit political campaign contributions from Fiesta Bowl employees and to later reimburse those employees in the guise of employee bonuses. Although Junker acknowledged that he knew that making campaign contributions in the name of others was illegal, he nonetheless instructed Natalie Wisneski, the Fiesta Bowl’s chief operating officer, to use bonuses to reimburse employees for their contributions. Wisneski is set to enter a guilty plea in federal court on March 15, 2012.

Junker acknowledged directing reimbursement of approximately $25,000 in contributions made to federal election campaigns between 2006 and 2009, and additional amounts made to the campaigns of state and local candidates. Tax returns were filed with the IRS for the 2007 and 2008 tax years, which falsely reported that the not-for-profit Fiesta Bowl made no contributions to political campaigns and engaged in no lobbying activities. Junker admitted that he authorized these filings knowing that they contained false statements.

Junker is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge David G. Campbell on May 21, 2012.

A conviction for conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. The plea agreement provides that Junker’s sentence will not exceed two years. In determining an actual sentence, the court will consult the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges. Judge Campbell, however, is not bound by the guidelines in determining a sentence.

The investigation in this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations. The prosecution is being handled by Frank T. Galati, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Phoenix.