The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) sent the St. Croix Chippewa Indians a notice of violation earlier this month. The notice outlines over 500 alleged violations and misusing $1.5 million.
Alleged violations date back to 2014 and accuse tribal elder Elmer “Jay” Emery, chairman Lewis Taylor and other members of misusing tribal gaming revenue.
The notice was signed by NIGB Chairman Jonodev O. Chaudhuri. It alleges between 2014-2017 Taylor received 75 payments totaling $154,173 and 94 payments to Emery totaling $235,888.
The report states some of the funds were used for trips to Hawaii and Las Vegas. The regulators say in some cases the only description and documentation for disbursing the funds were the words “travel” or “consulting fees.”
Regulators also said in the report from 2015 to 2017, St. Croix Casino Turtle Lake issued 275 payments totaling over $500,000 to seven tribal members.
The NIGC, along with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, have strict gaming revenue purposes that are broken down into five groups:
- To fund tribal government operations and programs;
- To provide for the general welfare of the Indian tribe and its members;
- To promote tribal economic development;
- To donate to charitable organizations; and
- To help fund operations of local government agencies.
The NIGC report states throughout their review period checks were issued to a number of individuals.
“Many of the payments–worth hundreds of thousands of dollars–were issued to the same small group of people, often with the only supporting document being a request for disbursement form with the words “travel” or “consulting fees” scrawled into the comment sections,” the report says. “Upon further questioning by NIGC investigators, the Tribe was unable to produce documentation to support treating the payments as expenses of the gaming operation.”
Each of the 527 violations comes with a possible fine of $52,596 and the total fine amount could exceed $27 million.
“There is no way to correct these violations,” Chaudhuri writes. “But the Chair will consider the Tribe’s efforts taken to mitigate damages when determining an appropriate civil fine amount.”
The tribe has 30 days from April 11 to appeal the findings of the NIGC.
Michael Decorah, Senior Intergovernmental Affairs Liaison for the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin was not available for comment.