"A Lawyer With a Briefcase can steal more than 100 men with guns" Don Corleone
Members of the San Pascual Band of Mission Indians, which owns Valley View Casino in Valley Center, each earn nearly $100,000 a year in gambling revenues, but not all members of the tribe are receiving their share, according to court records.
The 280-member tribe (five school buses!)is locked in a bitter dispute with about 60 people in the Alto family, who the tribe says do not belong in the tribe. The tribe is trying to remove them from its rolls.
The Altos filed a lawsuit last year against the U.S. Department of Interior for going along with the tribe's plans to expel them, effectively cutting them out of their share of gambling earnings, health benefits and participation in the tribe's government.
In November, lawyers for the family asked the court for a preliminary injunction that would block their removal and force the tribe to return some of the benefits while the lawsuit is resolved. U.S. District Court Judge Irma E. Gonzalez granted the family's request in December.
Last month, Larry Echo Hawk, the assistant secretary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, issued a letter implementing the judge's order and restoring the Alto family members' rights as San Pasqual Indians. It restores their ability to participate in tribal elections, receive Indian health services and get their "per capita" payments, as the casino money paid to tribal members is called.
Alto family members, however, say Echo Hawk's letter does not go far enough, because it places their share of the gambling money into a trust fund, which they can't access unless they win the lawsuit. OP: That's NOT restoring rights!
"If the Alto descendants ultimately prevail in this litigation, the band must distribute the funds in the escrow account to the Alto descendants," Echo Hawk wrote.
Moreover, the tribe already has distributed millions of dollars owed to the Alto family to other tribal members, said Thor Emblem, a lawyer for the family.
San Pasqual leaders have declined to discuss the case, saying it is an internal tribal matter.
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