Twenty-Nine Palms Band compares gaming scam to Abramoff

The Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella, California. Photo from Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians.

The Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians in California says it was cheated out of $20 million in a casino corruption case.

Three people have pleaded guilty to bribery and tax evasion charges. They admitted that they steered contracts at the Spotlight 29 Casino to companies they controlled.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the trio enriched themselves of contracts worth $2.8 million. But the tribe said the actual damages were much higher.

"This case represents the largest rip off of an Indian tribe since the Jack Abramoff scandal, Chairman Darrell Mike said in a press release. "Indian tribal leadership in this country has been abused for 300 years and has not had the educational advantages of sophisticated whites."

"We rely upon highly educated professionals to be honest and to guide us through many legal and business activities," Mike added. "The extent and premeditation by these dishonest outside advisors was shocking and extremely disheartening."

David Alan Heslop, whom the tribe described as a politically-connected Republican who advised Ronald Regan and George H.W. Bush, is due to be sentenced June 30 for his role in the scam. He faces up to five years in federal prison.

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