HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The former chairman of the tribe that runs one of the world's largest casinos and his brother, the tribe's treasurer, have been charged with stealing a combined $800,000 from their Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, federal prosecutors in Connecticut said Friday.
The indictments returned by a federal grand jury in Hartford follow a lengthy FBI investigation at the tribe's tiny reservation in rural southeastern Connecticut, where it owns and operates Foxwoods Resort Casino.
The former chairman, Michael Thomas, 44, is accused of stealing more than $100,000 in tribal funds and federal grant money between 2007 and 2009 during his tenure as leader of the tribal council, a position he was ousted from over his handling of the tribe's finances.
His brother, treasurer Steven Thomas, 38, allegedly stole more than $700,000 between 2005 and 2008 when he was assistant director of the tribe's natural resources department.
A tribal spokesman, William Satti, released a statement in which the tribal council said the federal charges threaten tribal sovereignty.
"We are disappointed in the federal government's decision to move forward with this action, and feel that this has strong implications on self-governance throughout Indian Country," the statement said.
The council also said it is confident in Steven Thomas' dedication to his duties as a tribal council member but didn't mention Michael Thomas. A separate statement sent internally to tribal members offered assurances that the tribe itself is not the target of the FBI investigation.
The two men are each charged with one count of theft from an Indian tribal organization and two counts of theft from an Indian tribal government receiving federal funds. They are each due to appear Monday in U.S. District Court in New Haven. Attorneys for the two defendants did not return messages seeking comment.