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Feds to audit Cheyenne, Arapaho Tribes

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  • Feds to audit Cheyenne, Arapaho Tribes

    By Tony Thornton
    Staff Writer, The Oklahoman

    CONCHO — Federal Indian gaming regulators plan a rare investigative audit of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, The Oklahoman has learned.

    The National Indian Gaming Commission wants to know how the two tribes have spent an estimated $50 million derived from their three casinos — primarily the Lucky Star casinos at Concho and Clinton — in the last two years.

    The examination of gaming revenues will begin Jan. 8, according to a Nov. 30 letter sent to the tribe by the federal agency's audit director.

    Chuck Choney, one of the agency's three commissioners, said he couldn't recall such an audit being performed on an Oklahoma tribe.

    He said any criminal findings will be turned over to the FBI.

    The Cheyenne and Arapaho governor, Darrell Flyingman, said he welcomes the investigation.

    "It's a sad thing that our own people had to turn us in, but it's going to uncover a lot of things and bring them out into the open,” Flyingman said. "I hope they'll come down and look at all the people who have been taking money from the casinos.”

    Ida Hoffman, who heads the tribes' legislative body, said she requested a more exhaustive forensic audit. Instead, the agency agreed only to make sure tribal officials are complying with a gaming revenue allocation plan.

    Hoffman said the first 21 percent of casino profits goes toward "administrative expenses.” After that, the plan allots 30 percent for economic development, 20 percent for direct payments to tribe members, 16 percent for elder care, 10 percent for education, 10 percent for culture and heritage, 2 percent to the election board and 2 percent to the health board.

    "If the audit shows that every cent of our gaming revenue was properly spent, I will be the first one to go (to Flyingman) and say, ‘Good job.' I don't believe that's going to happen,” Hoffman said.

    Regulators want an accounting of the estimated $2 million to $2.5 million monthly profit produced by Lucky Star casinos.

    The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes have been in political tumult for years, and tribal officials have said the factionalism has grown stronger as gaming profits increased.

    An FBI investigation that began in 2004 has resulted in embezzlement convictions against two former tribal chairmen. That inquiry is ongoing.

    Under federal law, Indian gaming profits can be spent in these ways:

    •To fund tribal government.

    •To provide for the general welfare of tribal members.

    •To promote economic development.

    •To donate to charities.

    •To help fund local governments.

    Tribal troubles have grown
    Revelations of the historical abuse of gaming profits within the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes led to a new tribal constitution and a revenue allocation plan for the tribes.
    Neither the constitution nor the allocation plan resolved tensions. The animosity grew after Flyingman announced his intent to cut ties with Southwest Casino and Hotel Corp., which ran the Lucky Star casinos for more than 13 years. Flyingman severed the relationship last summer.

    Flyingman alleges legislators received direct payments from the casino. Hoffman claims Flyingman has steered money to his supporters to the exclusion of other groups.

    Choney, the federal regulator, said both sides in the tribes' current power struggle made accusations against the other, which prompted the investigative audit.

    "The governor's side is saying there is funding missing because of the problems with Southwest Casino. The legislature is saying that since the governor's office has taken over, there isn't proper management of the casino and that some money is missing,” Choney said. He said the audit should "quell any rumors or determine whether these rumors are true.”

    The federal agency recently began a similar audit of the Seminole Tribe of Florida after a series of newspaper investigative reports detailed how tribal officials spent more than $280 million as they chose since 2000.

    The Seminole case is similar to the longstanding allegations within the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, Choney said.

    ᎠᏂᎩᏚᏩᎩ - Anigiduwagi
    Till I Die!

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