DENISE A. RAYMO
AKWESASNE — Two more men associated with Three Feathers Casino were involved in an illegal gaming business on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, federal officials say.
Though they had not been arrested yet, James Gray, 56, of Hogansburg and Joseph Hight, 49, of Atlanta, Ga., were recently indicted on charges of conducting an illegal gambling business and unlawful possession of gambling devices, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Three others — Tony Laughing Sr., 65; Thomas Angus Square, 57; and William Roger Jock, 51 — were arraigned on federal counts in U.S. District Court in Plattsburgh last week.
Laughing was released on $50,000 bond with electronic home monitoring, Jock was released on $10,000 bond, and Square remained in custody pending a hearing in court. No information was available Monday on the findings of that hearing.
Their trial is set for Feb. 11 in Utica.
The five are accused of operating or aiding and abetting in the operation of an illegal casino at 439 Route 37 from July 13 to Sept. 10 and for possession of gaming devices from Sept. 1 to Dec. 12.
The illegal-operation charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison and as much as a $250,000 fine, while the device-possession count has a maximum of two years in federal prison and up to another $250,000 fine.
A news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office states that the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Gaming Commission had been investigating for a year and had not issued a gaming-facility license to Three Feathers.
It instead ordered the place closed in January.
But the five accused allegedly continued an active operation until Sept. 10, when a sign appeared in front of the building stating the casino was closed for remodeling.
The investigation, conducted under the direction of Richard S. Hartunian, U.S. attorney for the Northern District, included special agents of Homeland Security Investigations from the Buffalo Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Border Enforcement Security Task Force in Massena and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police Department.
A federal search warrant was executed at the casino Dec. 18 with the assistance of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Enforcement Operations, the U.S. Border Patrol and St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office.
‘UNPAID ELECTRIC BILLS’
At the same time, the State Police acted on a search warrant concerning an unpaid bill for electrical service at the casino. National Grid says it is owed more than $200,000 for its power service over the past two years.
“Unauthorized and unregulated casinos in Indian country detract from legitimate gambling operations whose proceeds are meant to help sustain Native American communities so they can develop programs and provide services that further public safety, public health and self-determination,” Hartunian said.
“Illegal gambling can bring in unseen and undesirable elements who pursue profit for themselves, not for the children, the elders or the community.”
Email Denise A. Raymo: firstname.lastname@example.org