Thursday, June 27, 2013

Chukchansi Corruption Probe Alleges Millions Missing, Federal Gun Law Violations, Massive Financial Losses

Wall Street Journal has the story of "your cronies are criminal, but my cronies are great" fight between two corrupt factions at Chukchansi.

An exhaustive 100-day preliminary investigation into allegations of corruption and fraud against a pair of former Chukchansi Tribal Council members has produced hundreds of pages of evidence of wrongdoing, according to a preliminary report issued by a team of independent investigators hired by the Chukchansi Tribal Council and the Tribal Gaming Commission.

The 62-page preliminary report, authored by a team including former FBI agents and forensic accountants who have reviewed thousands of pages of financial documents and interviewed dozens of witnesses, details alleged "unethical and criminal activities" committed by since-expelled Tribal Council Members Reggie Lewis and Chance Alberta.

Among the allegations detailed in the preliminary report:

   -- The Lewis faction, according to investigators, drew on bank accounts in
      violation of the Tribe's laws and procedures and the federal Indian
      Gaming Regulatory Act. These alleged violations include 19 checks and two
      wire transfers worth more than $2.7 million.

   -- While claiming to have been wildly successful in developing subsidiary
      companies for Chukchansi, Inc., the Lewis faction, say investigators,
      have concealed massive financial losses by the subsidiaries and hidden
      their failure to pay tens of thousands of dollars in California state

   -- A $1,900 shotgun reportedly purchased by Chance Alberta and given as a
      gift to a tribal vendor potentially violates federal gun laws concerning
      "straw man" purchases, according to investigators. (NOTE:  very similar to what Gabby Giffords husband did.)

   -- Alberta, the investigators report, has used a tribal debit card to make
      tens of thousands of dollars in personal purchases, including "shoe
      stores, iTunes, $3,452 to a Motorcycle company in Tennessee, huge numbers
      of payments to 'Saddleback Leather' which makes high quality briefcases,
      bags and wallets, regular payments of $100 to $200 to a local flower
      company (owned by an Alberta relative) and many other questionable travel
      and meal expenditures."

"Reggie Lewis and Chance Alberta and their cronies have used our tribe as their personal ATM for far too long," said Chukchansi Tribal Chairwoman Nancy Ayala. "The real shame is that the Chukchansi people are struggling and our casino is fighting to pay its bills. For these three to have seized millions and wasted it -- I think that's truly criminal. Their conduct has made it extremely difficult for us to do the business of the tribe -- including making the per-capita payments we've made and funding programs for tribal elders and families' child care. We're getting the job done for our people, but the Lewis group keeps trying to sabotage us."

Dennis Nelson, one of the lead investigators on the case, says that the waste here, in his experience, rivals anything he's seen in more than 20 years of such work. "At every turn, we've seen lies, deceit and a pattern of money vanishing in huge sums. And with every question we have asked, the Lewis faction has grown more determined to cover up their conduct."

Dr. Karen Wynn, treasurer of the Tribal Council, was joined by her Council colleagues in calling for a federal investigation into the evidence tribal auditors have uncovered. Every passing day, said Wynn, allows more Chukchansi money to be seized and misspent.

"The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI need to take immediate action," said Wynn. "We're fortunate to have received confirmation from the Bureau of Indian Affairs that we are the rightful Chukchansi Tribal Council. Now we need the help of federal law enforcement to protect our people from losing millions of dollars more to predators out to fill their own pockets."

The investigation into Chukchansi Inc. and the Lewis group continues. So does the cooperation of the Chukchansi elected and tribal gaming officials with state and federal law enforcement.
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