Former Fiesta Bowl official indicted

A former Fiesta Bowl officer has been indicted for making campaign contributions in someone else's name and filing false tax returns, among other counts announced Wednesday by the U.S. attorney's office.

Natalie Wisneski, the former chief operating officer of the Fiesta Bowl, was also indicted by a federal grand jury for causing false statements to be made to the Federal Elections Commission and for conspiracy.

The nine-count indictment was returned Tuesday and comes eight months after a task force uncovered evidence of serious infractions committed by the Fiesta Bowl.

The scandal cost longtime executive director John Junker his job and prompted the Bowl Championship Series to fine the Fiesta Bowl $1 million, though it was allowed to remain in the BCS and keeps its NCAA license.

Wisneski, 47, is alleged to have used her high-paying job to solicit campaign contributions from bowl employees for federal, state and local candidates and then arranging to reimburse the employees with Fiesta Bowl money.

The indictment says Wisneski, who also lost her job because of the scandal, filed false tax returns after denying that the Fiesta Bowl had any lobbying expenses or political expenditures.

She is the first Fiesta Bowl official to be charged and will be summoned to appear for arraignment on November 30.

The Fiesta Bowl is said to be cooperating with the ongoing investigation. The federal campaigns identified in the indictment have also cooperated and there is no evidence to suggest they knew the Fiesta Bowl reimbursed its employees.

A 276-page task force report issued in March showed the Fiesta Bowl reimbursed contributions made to 25 candidates or political entities, including current U.S. Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl; Arizona Governor Jan Brewer; Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett; former U.S. Representative Harry Mitchell; and the former mayor of Scottsdale, Mary Manross.

Federal law prohibits reimbursement for federal campaign contributions and causes the campaigns to file false information with the FEC.

The conspiracy and false statements charges against Wisneski both carry a maximum penalty of five years, a $250,000 fine or both. Filing false tax returns carries a maximum penalty of three years, a $250,000 fine or both.

Making campaign contributions in the names of others exceeding $10,000 in a year is a felony and punishable by up to two years, a $250,000 fine or both. The same charge for contributions totaling between $2,000 and $10,000 in a year carries a maximum penalty of one year, a $100,000 fine or both.