St. Croix Chippewa Tribe Allegedly Paid Marijuana Consultant Who Had Spent Decade in Prison
Posted on: April 24, 2019, 08:58h.
Last updated on: April 25, 2019, 06:43h.
The St. Croix Chippewa of Wisconsin allegedly used casino funds to pay over $301,000 to Lawrence Larsen between 2015 and 2017 for consulting services on marijuana and related products.
A few years earlier, Larsen spent 10 years in prison on drug charges, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Producing Hemp, Cannabidiol
He was paid from money generated at St. Croix Casino Turtle Lake, because of the tribe’s interest in growing marijuana to produce hemp and Cannabidiol (CBD). They can be used for medicinal products.
Between April 1999 and September 2009 Larsen was incarcerated in Washington state prison. It was followed by a year of probation, Karen Takacs, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Corrections, told Casino.org.
Larsen was convicted of six counts of drug charges, and a single count each of forgery and fraud related to controlled substance abuse.
Casino funds were also used to pay for Larsen’s first-class flights to Hawaii, Atlanta and Seattle. Additionally, he was given $21,247 in casino funds for a 4×4 off-road vehicle, the newspaper reported.
Jeffrey Cormell, the tribe’s former general counsel, told the Journal Sentinel Larsen told him he was once associated with a motorcycle gang. He also had a tattoo on a forearm which displayed lips that were sewn shut — suggesting he did not squeal on anyone to authorities, the newspaper reported.
As far as the size of the payment, Cormell was quoted that it “blew” his “mind” and that it was “shocking.”
The payments were among those highlighted by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) in its Notice of Violation (NOV) dated on April 11.
The NIGC — which is a national regulator that monitors tribal gaming — claims the money paid to Larsen is among the $1.5 million that was spent improperly by the tribe. This month, the NIGC sent the tribe a 29-page Notice of Violation (NOV) listing 527 infringements of tribal and federal rules.
NIGC officials also chose to skip a typical step of sending an initial letter to the tribe explaining the commission’s concerns. Instead, the commissioners sent the NOV immediately, because of the severity and frequency of the allegations.
Each of the instances — which basically took place between 2014 and 2017 — could result in a fine of up to $52,596. They may total more than $27 million.
Tribal leaders could be investigated further by other federal officials in connection with the claims, Rory Dilweg, an attorney at Colorado-based Berg Hill Greenleaf Ruscitti, has said.
The tribal chairman, Lewis Taylor, hung up the telephone Monday when the Milwaukee newspaper’s reporter asked about Larsen and the NOV.
I have no comment — thank you very much,” Taylor was quoted as saying.
The tribe has not responded to a request for comments from Casino.org.
The tribe has 30 days to appeal the NOV. None of the tribe members have been charged criminally in the matter.
The NIGC is part of the federal Department of the Interior (DOI). It was set up under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988 and its current chair is Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri. He graduated from Cornell Law School and was appointed to the commission in 2015.
Formerly, he was Senior Counselor to the DOI’s Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs and was Chief Justice of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Supreme Court. The NIGC is separate from state gambling regulators which monitor local commercial casinos.
Nationally, tribal casinos account for nearly half of US gaming market, according to an American Gaming Association report released last November.
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