Chukchansi lawsuit requests casino money

The managers of the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold are the subjects of a lawsuit filed today claiming more than $316,000 in revenues were recently diverted by an illegal faction running the establishment.

The federal lawsuit is the latest in a year-long dispute involving the Chukchansi Economic Development Authority, tasked with overseeing the casino’s finances, and another faction claiming to be the rightful tribal council of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians.

CEDA Chairman Reggie Lewis said the faction now running the day-to-day operations has been illegally occupying the casino and tribal offices since last February when former council member Nancy Ayala forced out six other ruling members and put in place a team of managers loyal to her.

According to the tribal council led by Lewis, the question of who has purview over the tribe and casino was answered recently when the Bureau of Indian Affairs issued a letter recognizing the seven members of the Lewis-led council elected in 2010 to administer federal housing and assistance funds and carry out government-to-government relations.

Now, the Lewis council is taking its case to U.S. District Court claiming current management appointed by Ayala and the faction’s new leader, Tex McDonald, has failed to deposit all revenues for the casino into a Rabobank account as per an indenture agreement to ensure timely bond payments for the casino as well as distributions to the tribe’s roughly 900 members.

«It is unfortunate that a small group of individuals continue to defy the will of an overwhelming majority of tribal members and the recognition of the federal government,» said Lewis, in a statement. «There is only one Tribal Council recognized by the United States and stealing money from the tribe will not be tolerated.»

Specifically, the lawsuit, filed by the council’s attorney Robert Rosette, alleges that several members of casino staff, including General Manager Giffen Tan, General Accounting Manager Joyce Markle and Chief Financial Officer Larry King, were involved in making a recent cash payment of $316,700 to an unauthorized entity not recognized by the United States.

The lawsuit states that an estimated $1.4 million monthly could be lost to the tribe if similar misappropriations continue in violation of the tribe’s gaming compact approved in accordance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

According to the lawsuit, such payments sidestep legal review by the Board of Directors of CEDA, put in place in 2001 to own and operate the casino and whose members also make up the Chukchansi Tribal Council now recognized by the U.S. government.

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief preventing current casino management from making any further disbursements to any entity other than the U.S.-recognized tribal council.

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