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Former Seneca Councilmember Pleads Guilty to Lying to Feds

Former Seneca Nation of Indians tribal council member Bergal Mitchell III admitted on June 22 to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
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Former Seneca Nation of Indians tribal council member Bergal Mitchell III admitted on June 22 to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The 41-year-old Gowanda, New York resident entered a guilty plea that he lied to special agents investigating the purchase of 251-acres of farmland in Lewiston. Mitchell used the land purchase, which is the current location of the Seneca Hickory Stick Golf Course to cover up his theft of $338,000 as Bizjournals.com reports.

In 2006, the Seneca Gaming Corporation purchased the land for $2.1 million, however the only $1.2 million of the monies went to the sellers The Buffalo News reports.

At the time of the purchase, Mitchell was a tribal council member of the Seneca Indians, and served as vice chairman of the board of directors for the Seneca Gaming Corporation.

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The funds originally used for the purchase came from the Seneca Nation and its subsidiaries.

Mitchell was interviewed in 2008 where he allegedly told FBI he had no knowledge of a $248,000 wire transfer to an account belonging to his late half-brother. Other lies included him securing a $125,000 cashier’s check from these proceeds that was used to purchase his parent’s home; and a $23,000 amount that was loaned to a friend.

The plea deal ended the federal government’s seven-year investigation and saw Mitchell admit to receiving the funds after the sale on Monday, but he stopped short of acknowledging any involvement in setting up the 2006 land deal in Lewiston according to The Buffalo News. The deal also gives him the opportunity to pay back the $338,000 and avoid court-ordered restitution in the same amount.

Timothy Toohey, a Lewiston lawyer, was sentenced to 33 months in prison, after cooperating with prosecutors, for his involvement. He was convicted of unlawfully receiving an additional $202,000 of the proceeds according to Niagara Gazette.

Mitchell will be sentenced on October 1 before Judge Richard Arcara. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.