Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Winnebago Tribal Council Member Pleads Guilty

Another former tribal leader pleads guilty in casino theft

The Associated Press

Another former Winnebago Tribal Council member has pleaded guilty to his role in stealing from the tribe's casino in Iowa.

The Sioux City (Iowa) Journal reports ( ) that 70-year-old Louis Houghton entered the plea Monday in U.S. District Court in Omaha. His sentencing is set for Aug. 14.

Houghton is one of nine former council members accused of a conspiracy to siphon more than $327,000 from the WinneVegas Casino in Sloan, Iowa. Seventy-one-year-old Lawrence Payer pleaded guilty earlier this month to the same charge: theft from a gaming establishment on Indian lands.

Prosecutors have recommended that Houghton also be sentenced to five years of probation and be ordered to repay any money he illegally obtained from the casino.


Former Winnebago tribal officer pleads guilty to theft


In July, a federal grand jury indicted Payer, Houghton, former tribal chairman John Blackhawk, Darwin Snyder, Thomas Snowball Jr., Travis Mallory, Charles Aldrich, Morgan Earth and Ramona Wolfe. Each was charged with conspiracy, theft from a gaming establishment on Indian lands and wire fraud.

The indictments came after an FBI investigation determined that while on the tribal council, the defendants had given themselves raises and bonuses totaling $327,500 directly from the tribe's WinnaVegas Casino Resort without approving them at council meetings. It showed that in 2013 and 2014, the nine were issued $87,000 in gift certificates by the casino and uploads to prepaid debit cards paid for by the casino totaling $240,500. These distributions were recorded on the casino's books as miscellaneous administrative expenses, according to the indictment.