Harold Monteau: DOJ, crime and Indian Country
"The U.S. Department of Justice delivered its report on Indian country crime at the National Congress of American Indians midyear meeting.

I always experience a modicum of fear whenever DOJ decides to put an emphasis on crime in Indian country as it’s usually followed by a slew of tribal leader indictments. Remember the big raid at Coyote Valley a few years ago where the chairwomen, most of the council and their family members were indicted for theft from the tribal casino and myriad other crimes. The raid was a coordinated effort from the DOJ, FBI, National Indian Gaming Commission, BIA, State Police and the State of California Gaming Division. It was touted as the first big action by the federal governments’ new joint task force on Indian country crime.

Tribal records, tribal property, tribal computer information as well as private property were seized. Families, including children and senior members of the tribe, were kept captive for most of the day, some at gunpoint and handcuffed while their homes were torn apart. To date there have been no convictions in that case and the “last” defendant, tribal chairwoman Priscilla Hunter, pleaded guilty this month for failure to file an income tax return.

I wrote a column about this in Indian Country Today in July 2004. As a result of the raid the chairwomen and most of the council lost their seats and have not regained them. The net result of the raid at Coyote Valley was that the federal government influenced a forced change in tribal government, a “coup” so to speak. No apologies, not even a “my bad” from the feds. Some of the alleged “crimes” were based on not flying business class and not staying in cheaper hotels and not eating at cheaper restaurants.

Around the same time as the Coyote Valley debacle I took evidence of a major theft from an Indian casino to the federal joint task force and they refused to pursue it, characterizing it as a “contract dispute” between the tribe and its gaming management contractor. There was a contract dispute but that did not belie the fact that there was also a “conversion” of tribal property and money in violation of federal criminal law. The feds gave the non-Indian perpetrators a pass despite having jurisdiction under no less than three statutes."

Get the Story:
Harold Monteau: Will new crime effort make an impact? (Indian Country Today 6/24)

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Harold Monteau: Surviving and prospering together (4/2)
Harold Monteau: Some support for Larry EchoHawk (2/9)