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Why Did the FBI Launch a Raid on Mississippi Choctaw Gaming Facilities?

By       Message Roger Shuler     Permalink
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Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

Two days have passed since federal authorities launched an investigation at Mississippi Choctaw casinos, and we still don't know what prompted the action.

When news broke on Tuesday afternoon of an FBI raid at the Silver Star and Golden Moon casinos, many Alabamians wondered if it was driven by the political ugliness that has engulfed our state since George W. Bush entered the White House. After all, news reports indicate that Mississippi Choctaws spent $13 million, funneled through Republican felon Jack Abramoff, to help get Bob Riley elected governor in 2002. And Riley's apparent desire to protect the Choctaws market share, by stamping out gaming in Alabama, led to a federal electronic-bingo prosecution that is ongoing in Montgomery.

If Tuesday's raid has anything to do with Riley, Abramoff, and perhaps the Bush administration (hello, Karl Rove!), it would be a major national story. But so far, we have no indication that such weighty issues are driving the investigation. If they are, that would mean the Obama Department of Justice actually has its head out of you know where--and we've seen no sign that Eric Holder and Co. are up to the task of investigating and prosecuting Bush-era crimes.

With that in mind, our guess is that the raid was driven by relatively minor issues, perhaps intratribal skulduggery. A few details about the raid are emerging, and while no one has placed a finger on the focus of the investigation, some reports have dropped serious hints.

Articles in the Jackson Clarion Ledger and Neshoba Democrat hinted that the raid has something to do with a recent, hotly contested tribal election. From the Neshoba Democrat article:

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A search warrant executed by the FBI at Pearl River Resort on Tuesday could be related to election fraud, multiple sources told The Neshoba Democrat.

Jackson Clarion-Ledger article also addressed possible election issues. Curiously, the article quotes Birmingham lawyer G. Douglas Jones, a former U.S. attorney who has strong ties to Rob Riley, Governor Riley's son:

Phyliss J. Anderson would have taken office Tuesday, but the Tribal Council voted Friday to throw out that election and hold a new one Sept. 6. Salary for the job is $466,000 a year.

Current chief, Beasley Denson, who lost to Anderson, last week cast the deciding vote in favor of a new election. . . .

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During the hotly contested election, Anderson publicly called for an audit on the casinos and transparency in the tribe's spending. Choctaw tribe members each receive $500 every six months.

Various news reports have indicated that some 40 FBI agents participated in the raid, and they focused on computer hard drives, financial records, and phone records. I'm hardly an expert on Choctaw ways, but that doesn't sound like an investigation of election issues; it sounds like money is the focus. An Internet search indicates the Choctaw tribal headquarters are at 101 Industrial Road in Choctaw, MS. Wouldn't that have been the site of an election-related investigation?

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)

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