After a federal judge ordered an El Dorado County man to stop misappropriating the name of the "Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians," the federally-recognized tribe has filed a second lawsuit against other individuals believed to be engaged in the same improper misappropriation.
The lawsuit asks the United States District Court for the Eastern District to prohibit over two dozen individuals, who have no connection to the Tribe or permission to act on its behalf, from pretending to represent or act for the "Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians." The lawsuit seeks injunctive and monetary damages for violation of the Tribe's trademark rights and other legal rights.
The Tribe's problem with impersonators first began in 2008, just before it opened its gaming facility, Red Hawk Casino, when an individual named Cesar Caballero filed paperwork with the County of El Dorado claiming he was doing business as the "Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians." The Tribe asked Mr. Caballero to withdraw the document, and when he refused, sued Mr. Caballero to force him to do so, and thereby protect its federally recognized name from misappropriation. In September 2010, a United States federal judge concluded the Tribe is more likely to prevail in its lawsuit, and ordered Mr. Caballero to cease using the Tribe's name to mislead others into believing Mr. Caballero is affiliated with the Tribe.
The Tribe sought the federal injunction when Mr. Caballero filed a fraudulent change of address form with the United States Post Office, claiming to act for the Shingle Springs Band and requesting delivery of the Tribe's mail to his own address. As a result, Mr. Caballero was charged by the United States Attorney with obstructing the Tribe's mail, which is a federal crime for which he was then convicted. His sentencing is scheduled for April 23, 2012. Mr. Caballero also has used the Tribe's name to secure a tax identification number from the Internal Revenue Service, and establish websites that appear to be (but that are not) affiliated with Red Hawk Casino and the Shingle Springs Band. He even went so far as to use the Tribe's name to interfere with its long-time effort to repatriate human remains belonging to the Tribe and possessed by a Berkeley museum.
In response to the Tribe's civil lawsuit against Mr. Caballero, he filed a counter-suit against the Tribe in February 2009, claiming the Shingle Springs Band is an imposter tribe that should never have been federally recognized, and that his "tribe" (not the federally-recognized one) had the right to the Tribe's reservation and revenues from Red Hawk Casino. The Court dismissed all of Mr. Caballero's counterclaims as having no basis in law.
By having issued a preliminary injunction against Mr. Caballero, Federal District Court Judge John Mendez necessarily found that Mr. Caballero's deceptive actions risked irreparable harm to the Tribe and that the Tribe was likely to prevail in its lawsuit against Mr. Caballero.
Despite the federal court order, Mr. Caballero refuses to comply, and claims other individuals who are members of his "tribe" preclude him from doing so. As a result, the federal court held him in contempt and ultimately imprisoned him pending his compliance with the order. Mr. Caballero remains detained in the Sacramento County jail.
During Mr. Caballero's contempt proceedings, a number of persons with no connection to the Tribe signed letters on Mr. Caballero's behalf, claiming they were the "Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians" and were responsible for the conduct for which Mr. Caballero faced contempt by a federal court order. Those persons are now named as defendants in the Tribe's second lawsuit, filed on March 1, 2012. Judge Mendez deemed the second suit related to the action against Mr. Caballero, which is set for trial on September 24, 2012. The second lawsuit has not yet been set for trial.
Nicholas Fonseca, Chairman of the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, stressed the importance of protecting his Tribe's rights in its name, which the United States has recognized as the "Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians" for more than 30 years. "This Tribe has long struggled in poverty, and these people were nowhere to be seen when we had nothing at all," Chairman Fonseca said. "It was only after we managed to establish a gaming facility that they suddenly decided they wanted our land, our federal recognition, and our name. If you want to understand what is driving these people, the fact that Cesar Caballero claimed the right to Red Hawk revenues in his countersuit against the Tribe is all you need to know."
The United States has recognized the Shingle Springs Band as a sovereign tribal entity since at least as early as 1906, when it acquired land for the Native group (then without land, living homeless in the Sacramento area) on an El Dorado County tract of trust land next to that of another tribal group, commonly known as the El Dorado Band (named for the "El Dorado Tract" on which they resided). The Shingle Springs Band was then known as the Sacramento-Verona Band of Homeless Indians, and as early as 1980, the United States listed the Tribe as a recognized tribal entity under its present name.
The El Dorado Band lost its federally-recognized sovereign status in the mid 1900s, in connection with the then federal policy of terminating the sovereign status of tribal governments. It is believed that the United States distributed the assets of the El Dorado Band to members, including the land on which that group resided, and unlike other tribes in California, the El Dorado Band never sought to restore its federally-recognized sovereign status. It is believed Mr. Caballero and the other defendants may descend from that terminated tribe.