The Shinnecock Nation celebrated its 70th annual powwow in September 2016. Photo: Matt Ballard

Former gaming official from Shinnecock Nation enters guilty plea

A former Shinnecock Nation gaming official pleaded guilty in connection with a cybercrime that effectively derailed the New York tribe's casino efforts.

Karen Hunter, 62, pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor computer fraud, according to court documents. She admitted she broke into the email account of a tribal member who was working on a casino project, The Southampton Press and Newsday reported.

Hunter released information from the account under the name "Concerned Citizens of Shinnecock," former tribal leader Anii Brown wrote on Facebook on Monday. The hack caused "catastrophic political and familial rifts" within the tight-knit community, she said.

"Divided, some of my own cousins still don't speak to me to this day; and conquered, 220-years of effective self-governance were turned upside down," Brown wrote in a strongly-worded and emotional post.

Four years ago five men from Shinnecock were accused of selling out our Nation for personal gain. Following an internal...

Posted by Anii Brown on Monday, October 31, 2016

Anii Brown on Facebook: "It's gotta make you wonder who the actual sellouts are and what they had to gain?" The hack occurred sometime in 2012, according to news reports. It apparently led to a federal raid on the tribe's gaming authority in May 2013.

The trailer that housed the authority mysteriously burned down a few months later.

The tribe won federal recognition in October 2010 and has been eager to join the Indian gaming industry. But the hack and the upheaval it caused, along with other issues, have kept the effort from getting off the ground.

In hopes of operating a casino for the tribe, Gateway Casino Resorts spent more than $55 million on the federal recognition effort, Newsday reported. Former Shinnecock leaders who were victims of the cybercrime believe they were targeted and ousted from their positions because they raised questions about the deal.

At the time, Gateway acknowledged in a statement to Newsday that it had "information from the Nation showing that some tribal members were attempting to pursue gaming developments outside of the contracts between Gateway and the Nation and without the approval of the Nation's membership." The firm admitted that it "informed third parties" about the purported efforts.

But a Gateway spokesperson, however, is now denying any "knowledge" of efforts to oust tribal leaders, Newsday reported. The firm cut off monthly payments to the tribe in 2014, The Southampton Press reported at the time.

Charles Randall, whose email account was hacked, believes more prosecutions are in the works, The Press reported. Hunter's case was initially filed under seal in June -- a tactic that could indicate others might be facing charges.

Read More on the Story:
Shinnecock Gaming Official Pleads Guilty To Hacking Emails, Setting Off Tribal Divisions (The Southampton Press 10/31)
Former Shinnecock gaming official pleads guilty (Newsday 10/31)

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