Fiesta Bowl Fiasco: Former COO Natalie Wisneski Pleads Not Guilty
Natalie Wisneski, the former chief operating officer for the Fiesta Bowl, was in a Phoenix U.S. District Court this morning where she pleaded not guilty to multiple charges that she was involved in a scam to make illegal campaign contributions to several federal, state, and local political candidates.
Wisneski is the first Fiesta Bowl official charged with any crimes stemming from the alleged scam.
Wisneski was hit with a nine count indictment about two weeks ago charging that she solicited campaign contributions from Fiesta Bowl employees and reimbursed them with cash from the organization -- which is a bit (completely) on the illegal side.
Wisneski's also accused of filing false tax returns on behalf of the Fiesta Bowl when she denied that the organization had any lobbying or political expenditures.
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Former Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker was booted from the organization in March after an internal investigation revealed how he was spending the organization's cash.
Junker, the report from the investigation shows, racked up a nearly $5 million bill on the company's credit card over a 10-year period by doing things like picking up the $1,200 tab at a strip club for a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office lieutenant, holding a $33,000 Pebble Beach birthday party for himself, and spending $110,000 at a charity auction for a golf trip -- all on the company's dime.
Read the full report on Junker here.
Many Valley politicos benefited from Junker's (ahem) generosity with the Fiesta Bowl's money.
Below are the names of elected officials who allegedly reaped the benefits of Junker's misdeeds.
Republican state Senator Carolyn Allen, the Arizona Republican Party, AZ Wins, Secretary of State Ken Bennett, Governor Jan Brewer, state Senator Scott Bundgaard, one-time candidate for treasurer Ted Carpenter, former state Senator Christopher Cummiskey, Congressman Jeff Flake, former state Representative Mike Gardner, former TV pitchman JD Hayworth, former state Representative Laura Knaperek, Maricopa County Supervisor Andrew Kunasek, Senator Jon Kyl, Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane, former Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross, Phil Martin, Senator John McCain, former Congressman Harry Mitchell, Navarro for City Council, former state Senate President Russell Pearce, Pete Rios, former Congressman John Shadegg, state Representative James Weiers, and Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox.
In all, Wisneski's been charged with making campaign contributions in the name of another, causing false statements to be made to the Federal Election Commission, filing false tax returns and conspiracy.
The Fiesta Bowl, the U.S. Attorney's Office says, continues to cooperate with the investigation.
See the entire indictment here.
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