FBI agent discusses probe in Choctaw Nation casino fraud case

Special Agent Jeff Youngblood. Photo from FBI

An FBI agent who is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma helped investigate a casino corruption case that so far has ensnared seven people.

In a story published on the FBI website, special agent Jeff Youngblood said he got a tip about fraud within the tribe's construction agency. He discovered that the tribe was over-billed millions of dollars by outside firms that held casino contracts.

“I understood what all that money could have been used for—maybe to help with my children’s education or the educational needs of other members’ children or many other worthy tribal causes,” Youngblood said. “So much good could have been done with that money.”

Jason Merida, the former head of construction for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, is seen on a 2009 hunting excursion that was financed by a company that defrauded the tribe. Photo from Pueblo of Acoma Big Game Trophy Hunts

Jason Merida, a tribal member who oversaw the construction contracts, was found guilty after a trial last fall. Youngblood said the former employee forced outside companies to pay him bribes, gifts and other items of value.

“If he didn’t get what he wanted, you weren’t going to get the job,” Youngblood said of Merida's "pay to play" scheme.

Merida has not been sentenced for his crimes. He previously indicated that he plans to take his case to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Six other people -- including employees of companies that did work for the tribe -- also pleaded guilty for their role in the scam. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Eastern Oklahoma has not confirmed whether the investigation remains active but Youngblood issued a warning for those doing business in Indian Country.

"If you’re going to do work for the Indians, it better be honest and done fairly," Youngblood said. "If not, we will find you and we will prosecute you.”

Get the Story:
FBI Agent Helps Protect His Native American Community (FBI 4/7)

Relevant Documents:
Indictment: US v. Jason Brett Merida | Record of FBI Interview | Memorandum of Interview from Department of Treasury | Trial Brief by US Attorney's Office | Jason Merida Brief Accusing Batton and Pyle | US Motion Seeking to Prevent Jason Merida from Bringing up Batton and Pyle | Flintco Statement | Michael Burrage Email: Batton and Pyle Accepted Gifts

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