$fd The Desert Rose Casino in Alturas, California. Photo: DesertRoseCasino

Small Alturas Rancheria runs casino but can't agree on much else

R> The Alturas Rancheria might be the smallest tribe in California and the nation with a gaming facility.

Depending on who you ask, the tribe has anywhere from three to seven members. Of those, only two can trace direct descent from the Pit River Indians whose rancheria was originally set aside by the federal government in 1927.

Those two members are siblings Phillip Del Rosa and Wendy Del Rosa. Beyond their blood ties, the pair can't seem to agree on anything -- even who is entitled to receive the tribe's mail.

Last month, an administrative law judge for the U.S. Postal Service wrote that the tribe "seems incapable of resolving its own membership disputes."

The sibling rivalry has affected the Desert Rose Casino. Last fall, Phillip claimed that Wendy tried to take over the small facility, which was shuttered for a few days, Action News Now reported at the time.

A sign at the Desert Rose Casino. Photo: DesertRoseCasino

The casino is back up and running. But a website that was hosted at www.desertrosecasino.net is no longer functioning and the last post on the facility's Facebook page dates to September -- around the time of the alleged takeover.

Wayne Smith, a tribal employee and former Bureau of Indian Affairs official who was forced out by the Bush administration, admits he and Wendy went to the casino. He told The Sacramento Bee that they "removed $85,000 and put it into a tribal account.”

Phillip is trying to recover the funds that were removed and has filed a lawsuit in federal court. The casino makes between $50,000 and $80,000 a month, according to the Bee.

In the meantime, the BIA has withheld about $500,000 due to the infighting, the paper said. The California Gambling Control Commission refuses to release more than $550,000 in gaming revenues that are set aside for tribes with small casinos like Alturas.

As for the mail, the administrative judge ruled that neither Phillip nor Wendy are entitled to receive it. Instead, it's being delivered to a post office box controlled by Darren Rose, who relinquished his membership in the Karuk Tribe in order to join the Alturas Rancheria.

Wendy is appealing the decision, the Bee reported.

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