ANADARKO — The chairman of the Apache Nation of Oklahoma says he plans to meet with the Federal Bureau of Investigation next week to report what he calls blatant thefts from a casino's vault by members of one of the tribe's political factions.
Chairman Donnie Cabaniss said during an interview Thursday afternoon that members of the tribe's business committee recently raided the safe at the Golden Eagle Casino, one of the gaming facilities owned by the tribe.
The Silver Buffalo Casino closed a week ago. The tribe's other facility, the Golden Eagle Casino, shut down Wednesday.
Cabaniss was not sure how much was taken from the vault at Silver Buffalo Casino and said he's not sure when they will reopen.
“They pretty much just went in there and took whatever they wanted,” Cabaniss said. “They paid Silver Buffalo Casino with Golden Eagle (Casino) money.”
Cabaniss said the employees from Golden Eagle Casino “will get paid next week ... but they've already been laid off.” He was not sure how many casino employees have been put out of work due to the closures.
Local media reports suggest up to 100 workers may be out of job until the situation is resolved.
“The next step would be the FBI,” the chairman said. “I mean, we've got them on camera stealing out of the vault. We also have several informants who have stepped up and they're going to give their statements.”
Cabaniss said he isn't sure when the casinos will reopen. He said the facilities generated “millions of dollars every year” when he was a member of the business committee in 2006.
“That will be up to NIGC,” Cabaniss said, referring to the National Indian Gaming Commission. “When they come down — and I'm sure they will — it will be up to them.
“They could order a permanent closure, we don't know yet.”
The National Indian Gaming Commission is a federal agency charged with “maintaining the integrity of the Indian gaming industry,” according to a statement on the commission's website.
Cabaniss said political rivals within the Apache Nation have been trying to have him recalled as chairman since not long after he took office.
He said business committee member Phillip “Bodie” Wetselline is leading a group opposing him.
In fact, Cabaniss said it was Wetselline who stopped a check to an electric company and led to the power being cut off Thursday at the tribe's headquarters in Anadarko.
“It's all about being a bully right now ... but I don't bully like that,” Cabaniss said. “They're going to find that out.”
Attempts to reach Wetselline and tribal administrator Ernest Redbird were not successful.
Cabaniss was sued earlier this year by the tribe, who was trying to have him recalled as chairman, court records show. The lawsuit filed against Cabaniss was dismissed in June.
Wetselline and Cabaniss also have been battling in the tribe's court system, but Cabaniss insists that he remains chairman.
“This has been going on for years, even before this committee came on,” Cabaniss said. “I'm just the only one who's addressed it and taken it this far.”