Wisconsin Tribe Investigated over Missing Casino Funds

  • The St. Croix Chippewa tribe in Wisconsin is being investigated for suspicious casino payments
  • The tribe is charged with 527 violations and that could result in fines of more than $27m
  • The sum in question is over $526,000
  • The tribe operates three casinos in the state
St. Croix Casino sign
Leaders of a Wisconsin tribe that operates three casinos are under investigation for allegedly mishandling funds.

Details of the case

Federal gaming authorities have accused the St. Croix Chippewa tribe in Wisconsin tribe of taking more than $1.5m of casino funds without proper receipts or documentation. The tribe operates three casinos in the state.

A notice of violation was issued by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) in March involving the allegations. It said that 275 payments totaling $562,246 (£433,101) were sent to seven members of the tribe between 2015 and 2017. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that amounted to 527 violations of tribal and federal ordinances.

According to the regulators, some of these people used the funds for trips to Las Vegas and Hawaii. The description of some of the transactions was simply something like ‘consulting fees” or “travel.”

If the tribe is found guilty of all of these violations, it could be facing fines of more than $27m (£21m), since each of the 527 charges can carry a fine as high as $52,596 (£40,515). Naturally, they would be able to appeal these findings.

There also would likely be a federal inquiry also, which would mean further costs and trouble for the tribe.

Indian Gaming Commission is not happy

The NIGC says that the tribe has shown “complete disregard” for the commission’s rules. Credit cards under the names of tribal leaders were used when making reservations for first-class flights.

Significant payments also went to consultants and businesses where there is a lack of a “contract, record, or even a later recollection of the goods or services provided in exchange.”

It is charged that the chairman of the tribe, Lewis Taylor, received payments of $154,173 (£118,760), according to the commission. Another tribal member, Elmer Emery, allegedly received payments of $235,888 (£181,706). Another $526,246 (£405,370) has been questioned.

According to industry experts, this type of behavior is not normal when it comes to tribal gaming. Usually, the sector is very well looked after and is a great source of jobs and revenue for local tribal communities.

About the tribe

The St. Croix Casino at Turtle Lake is in a region of northern Wisconsin where the St. Croix tribe has been living for centuries. They first began trading in the region during the 17th century and developed partnerships with French traders.

Many of these traders married members of the tribe. For some time, the tribe was moved away from the lands of their ancestors. During this period, they were called the “lost tribe.”

They now live on five main reservations in Wisconsin.

The tribe operates casinos in Danbury, Hertel, and Turtle Lake. They have other business interests in the region, such as campgrounds and RV parks.