WEBSTER–Former St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin Tribal Council Members Stuart Bearheart, Carmen Bugg, Elmer “Jay” Emery, Crystal Peterson, and Lewis Taylor, along with tribal employees Duane Emery, Leva “Dino” Oustigoff, Neil Oustigoff, Jeff Taylor, and Kate Wolfe Taylor, and former contractor Lawrence Larsen were individually charged in the St. Croix Tribal Court on March 26, 2020 with embezzlement and receipt of improper disbursements from the profits of the Tribe’s casinos.
The charges relate to wrongdoing first uncovered in a Notice of Violation issued by the National Indian Gaming Commission in April 2019. The NIGC, the federal agency that regulates tribal gaming, alleged that nearly $1.5 million dollars of funds had been taken by individuals at the expense of tribal resources, in violation of the laws and regulations that restrict how casino revenues can be used.
The lawsuits filed in the St. Croix Tribal Court allege the defendants used their connections with Tribal and Casino leadership to request payments from the Tribe’s casinos. In some cases, the Tribe alleges the defendants received thousands of dollars in travel advances without providing documentation that the trip occurred, failed to return unused amounts, and sought reimbursement for the same trips from other tribal programs. In other cases, the Tribe alleges the defendants received payments for various projects that never materialized. The Tribe seeks a return of all unlawful payments, damages, and for the defendants that are members of the St. Croix Tribe, a declaration that they are ineligible to run for Tribal Council in the future.
A complaint is an accusation, and all defendants are presumed not responsible until found liable by the Tribal Court.