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Tulsans Plead Guilty In Construction Bribery Probe

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Lauri and Mark Parsons leave the courtroom Monday. Lauri and Mark Parsons leave the courtroom Monday.
The U.S. Attorney's Office holds a news conference in Muskogee about the construction bribery investigation. The U.S. Attorney's Office holds a news conference in Muskogee about the construction bribery investigation.
MUSKOGEE, Oklahoma -

Six people have been indicted in federal court in Muskogee after two bribery investigations revealed alleged corruption involving construction of a casino for the Choctaw Nation in Durant.

Lauri Parsons and her husband, Brent Parsons, Cordell Bugg, James Stewart, and Jerry Mark Eshenroder were indicted on conspiracy to commit theft or bribery charges. Brent Parsons and Stewart also face money laundering charges.

Allen Franklin, project manager for the tribe, is accused of conspiracy to commit theft or bribery.

The Choctaw Nation receives government funding, which is what prompted the feds to investigate.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says the Choctaw Nation lost as much as $7 million over the course of just a couple of years. Prosecutors say a vice president at Flintco and tribe employees were bribed with lavish trips and gifts to get business.

There was also personal gain, and the amount spent on designer handbags, alone, is staggering.

Lauri and Brent Parson walked out of the federal courthouse together Monday. The couple owns Builders Steel. They both pleaded guilty to defrauding the Choctaw Nation and bribing employees in charge of casino construction money.

"There is a tremendous amount of gifts and things of value. To violate federal law, there has to be a gift or thing of value more than $5,000," said U.S. Assistant Attorney Doug Horn.

Horn said the Parsons over-shot that number by millions.

He said the Parsons started bribing Flintco Construction vice president Cordell Bugg in 2008, shortly after Flintco was hired by the Choctaw Nation to manage construction of new casinos.

Read Indictment Document Filed Against Parsons, Others In Federal Court

Read Indictment Against Eshenroder, Franklin

He said the Parsons spent tens of thousands of dollars taking Bugg and his wife on trips and buying them lavish gifts. Court documents show the Parsons spent more than $855,000 on handbags and other items at Louis Vuitton.

"Certainly the government does not want used Louis Vuitton bags, however they have a right to continue to enjoy the fruits of their ill-gotten gains, so we will seize what we can," said Jim Finch, FBI.

But there are some things that can't be given back. The Parsons took two unnamed co-conspirators on hunting trips that cost more than $250,000.

The Parsons also filed $345,000 worth of false invoices to the Choctaw Nation.

"Unfortunately, it's a crime that seldom rears its ugly head until late in the game. Bribery doesn't work unless there are two cooperating parties," Finch said.

Choctaw Nation Employee, Allen Franklin, pleaded guilty to allowing Flintco to remodel his kitchen for free. Jerry Eshenroder pleaded guilty to arranging the fraud.

And James Stewart was convicted of money laundering.

Flintco employees Cordell Bugg and Jerry Eshenroder were fired. A third former employee is still under investigation.

Flintco says it sincerely regrets this isolated incident and the negative impact it has had on the Choctaw Nation.

Those who pleaded guilty Monday face between five and 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

When Lauri Parson's walked out of the courtroom, she was carrying a Louis Vuitton wallet. The prosecutor said Parsons left her $140,000 Tiffany diamond ring at home.

Horn said there are three co-conspirators, who have been assisting in the investigation, and may still face charges.

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