Kiowa Tribe under federal probe into missing casino funds

OKLAHOMA CITY - The Kiowa Grand Center casino remains closed amid allegations that more than $2 million are unaccounted during a recent federal audit, and half the tribe's records for 1999 are missing.

In a telephone interview, FBI spokesman Gary Johnson confirmed that the FBI and Office of the Inspector General are investigating allegations from the manager and former manager of the casino that money from the casino was given to select tribal members.

Receipts marked "emergency assistance" show that the majority of the money was given to tribal members and tribal officials didn't sign some receipts.

Earlier, former Chairman Earl Yeahquo said money from the casino was given to tribal members for various school and community projects. He said he was concerned the recent closure of the casino would leave tribal members without means of support for emergencies.

Casino manager Shan Gachot told the Daily Oklahoman in a copyright story in the June 25 editions, "It just looks like it was a free-for-all."

An audit showed the casino grossed $2.3 million January through October of 1999, but half the records are missing. Gachot therefore estimated the casino grossed about $5 million. There were no audits in 1997 or 1998.

Former casino manager, Tammy Reeves, who quit in October, said she'd counted $40,000 in receipts for petty cash withdrawals from the casino in her yearlong tenure.

"There were people (tribal members) sleeping in their cars and they got no assistance," Reeves said. "But other tribal members could get money for prom dresses and tuxedos."

The National Indian Gaming Commission closed the casino in June, charging it was operating illegal gaming machines. The Kiowa Grand Center had been warned but continued to operate illegal Class III machines. Yeahquo said it was the casino manager who had not removed the machines.

Gachot indicated he will appeal the closure.

The BIA put the tribe on notice three years ago as a "high risk" governing body because of spending abuses. It threatened to take control of the Kiowa's $1.24 million in federal contracts.

"There has been so much corruption for so long, it has to end," said Kiowa Vice Chairwoman Brenda Myers.