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Old 02-08-2004, 08:30 PM   #1
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tribal leader pleads guilty to federal fraud

http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories...?storyID=21666
3&category=CAPITOL&BCCode=&newsdate=2/8/2004

Tribe leader pleads guilty in federal fraud case
Albany -- Ronald Roberts admits faking genealogy in filing
applications to gain official recognition for tribe


By MICHELE MORGAN BOLTON, Staff writer
First published: Saturday, February 7, 2004


The self-proclaimed leader of the Western Mohegan Tribe and
Nation pleaded guilty Friday to filing a false federal application
for tribal recognition by faking his own genealogy, a grandfather's
death certificate and the 1845 state census.

Sachem Golden Eagle surprised prosecutors with the
admission that came six days into his federal district court fraud
trial.

The defendant, also known as former Granville slate salesman
Ronald Roberts, 56, has been trying to establish the tribe's
Native American dominion since 1997. Prosecutors said he
thought it would be his way to break into the gaming industry.

Roberts filed a New York land claim in 2003 in 10 counties --
including Rensselaer and Albany -- seeking millions in rent over
200 years on 900,000 acres of public land, including the Capitol.

He and his associates claim to be descendants of Indians who
remained in the Hudson Valley in the late 1700s, when most of
the tribe migrated elsewhere.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Storch said he didn't know why
Roberts shifted gears Friday in the case before U.S. District
Judge Lawrence E. Kahn, "but we would assume it had
something to do with the strength of the evidence against him."

"I certainly wasn't planning on it," Storch said. "We were ready to
conclude our case today when he came forward."

It was good news for Steve Comer of West Sand Lake, a
descendant of the Mohicans who lived in the Albany area.

"I have known for years that Ron was faking and tried to tell
everybody I knew who had fallen under his spell," Comer said.
"This makes me feel vindicated. I hope the lesson is that people
who try to be something they aren't come to no good end."

Storch said proof presented at trial underlined Roberts' financial
interest in the official recognition of the tribe. He had already
approached the Connecticut Mohegans, who run Foxwoods
Casino and Mohegan Sun.

Roberts also admitted to using his son's Social Security number
and falsifying other documents in his own 1996 bankruptcy
proceeding.

He was represented by attorney Ed Menkin of Syracuse, who
couldn't be reached for comment.

The Indian Gaming Regulation Act dictates that no Indian tribe
can operate a gambling facility unless it is first recognized by the
federal government. And the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs has
never acknowledged the Western Mohegans.

In the plea deal, Roberts could draw a $250,000 fine and a
five-year prison term on each of the charges.

Roberts admitted Friday to presenting President Bush and the
secretary of the interior with the phony document, "A 1st
Amendment Petition for a Redress of Grievances From the
Western Mohegan Tribe & Nation of New York."

He will also be required to serve a three-year period of post
release, if incarcerated.

Sentencing is set for June 8.
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