The St. Croix Chippewa Indian operate three gaming facilities in Wisconsin, including one in Danbury. Photo: Tony Webster

St. Croix Chippewa Tribe hit with $5.5 million fine for gaming law violations

The St. Croix Chippewa Indians are facing $5.5 million in fines for numerous violations of federal and tribal gaming law.

A notice of proposed civil fine assessment said tribal officials "diverted at least $1.5 million" from their gaming operation in Wisconsin. They committed a whopping 527 violations of federal and tribal laws and regulations in doing so, according to Jonodev Chaudhuri, the outgoing chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission.

"I see no serious efforts to deal with the root problem that caused these violations," Chaudhuri said in the May 8 notice. "Without a significant deterrent, losses will continue to mount, the economic benefit to individuals will grow, and others may be inspired to commit similar malfeasance."

The proposed fine comes a month after the NIGC issued a notice of violation (NOV) issued to the tribe that outlined the 527 infractions. According to the agency, payments have been made to the "same small group of people" -- including the chairman, tribal leaders and others connected to them -- without adequate documentation.

Lawrence Larsen has been among the beneficiaries, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. He is a consultant to the tribe on hemp issues and spent a decade in prison on drug charges, the paper said.

Larsen received $378,000, according to the NIGC. The agency says the tribe should be fined $1.5 million for the violation, The Journal Sentinel reported. The paper also detailed the proposed fines for the other violations.

The tribe can opt to appeal the notice of proposed civil fine assessment to the full NIGC. In that instance, the appeal will proceed without the involvement of Chaudhuri, who is stepping down on May 15 to head up the Indian law and policy group at Quarles & Brady LLP, a national firm.

The NIGC can still rule on an appeal with only two members of the commission. The remaining members are Vice Chair Kathryn Isom-Clause, who will take over day-to-day operations of the agency on May 16, and Commissioner E. Sequoyah Simermeyer.

Read More on the Story
St. Croix Chippewa tribe is facing $5.5 million fine for pocketing and misappropriating $1.5 million (The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel May 13, 2019)
St. Croix Tribe Hit With $5.5M Fine For Misuse Of Gaming Revenues (Wisconsin Public Radio May 13, 2019)
St. Croix Chippewa's hemp consultant did prison time for drug dealing before big casino payout (The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel April 24, 2019)

National Indian Gaming Commission Documents
Notice of Proposed Civil Fine Assessment (May 9, 2019)
Notice of Violation (April 11, 2019)

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