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15 Charged in Armed Takeover of Central California Casino

Nov 04, 2014
Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino will remain closed until the tribal dispute is over

Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino will remain closed until the tribal dispute is over

Reports say the incident was at the center of a power struggle between factions of a Native American tribe.

Prosecutors have filed charges against 15 people involved in the armed takeover and one of the defendants was arrested by Madera County authorities. Eric Domingo Flores Suniga, 30, was charged with five counts of assault with a stun gun. The other defendants were accused of kidnapping, false imprisonment and assault with a firearm.

According to online gambling news, it all started from a dispute between two rival tribe factions. They fought over who gets control over the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino, located northeast of Fresno.

After one tribal group attempted a takeover last month, authorities decided to close the gambling venue. Madera County District Attorney Michael Keitz gave the suspects two options, to either surrender or be arrested, but lawyer David Leibowitz said his clients did nothing illegal and did not endanger the lives of any casino customers.

Associated Press: 15 Charged in Armed Takeover that Closed Casino

Prosecutors have charged 15 people in an armed dispute between two rival factions of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians, who fought to get control over the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino.

More than a dozen people stormed the venue last month, in an armed takeover that sent hundreds of gamblers running for their lives, while their chips were still on the table. Luckily, no one was hurt.

After another suspect was arrested last week, the group’s leader, 64-year-old Tex McDonald, surrendered to the Madera County Sheriff’s Office on Monday. The court set his bail at $1 million.

According to Sheriff John Anderson, three other suspects did the same, but deputies are still looking for the other 10 people charged with kidnapping, assault with a firearm and false imprisonment.

Following a federal court order and the approval of the National Indian Gaming Commission, the casino was shut down and will remain closed until the dispute is settled. The gambling business was an important source of revenue for members of the tribe. It also employed around 1,100 workers.

Fresno Bee: 15 charged with felonies in Chukchansi Gold casino armed confrontation

Madera County District Attorney Michael Keitz announced that 15 people involved in the armed confrontation at the Chukchansi Casino on October 9 have been charged with multiple felonies. Led by Tex McDonald, a faction of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians used firearms to take over the gambling venue from a rival faction overseen by Reggie Lewis and Nancy Ayala.

McDonald, his fellow tribal council member Vernon King and his tribal police chief John Olivera were among those charged with felonies including kidnapping, assault with a firearm, false imprisonment, assault with a deadly weapon, battery inflicting serious injury and assault with a stun gun.

Bail for the group leader was set at $1 million, 13 will have to come up with $800,000 apiece if they want to make bail, and Eric Domingo Flores Suniga was charged with assault with a stun gun, so his was set at just $25,000. In 1992 and 1995, McDonald was taken in for assault with a deadly weapon and making criminal threats.

The two tribal groups have been fighting over the casino for a while now. For most of 2014, the venue was controlled by McDonald and his men, but on August 24 the Lewis group entered the hotel and set up offices on the 10th and 11th floors. Their rivals forced an armed takeover on October 9.

During a hearing in U.S. District Court in Fresno on Wednesday, Judge Lawrence O’Neill referred to a declaration filed by the state Attorney General indicating that at least one member of the Lewis-Ayala security forces was armed with a gun. Other guns were found on the casino grounds, too, in the possession of the Lewis-Ayala faction’s security forces, the declaration said.

According to Madera County district attorney Michael Keitz, if convicted of all charges, the accused could face a “significant amount” of time in prison.

David Leibowitz, a spokesman for the McDonald faction, said: “We fully intend to work cooperatively with the District Attorney’s Office to bring this matter to a quick conclusion and to clear these trained professionals’ and leaders’ names, just as we will continue to pursue justice for the Chukchansi people in the eyes of the law.”

AllGov: Armed Tribal Factions Square off Inside Their Casino

The Chukchansi Gold Resort Casino in Coarsegold was shut down by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill, following an armed dispute between rival factions of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians.

The judge issued an emergency order temporarily closing the place and said that the tribe may have violated its agreement with the state by endangering the health and safety of customers at the casino. He wanted to stop both factions from using force “to change the circumstances currently in effect with respect to the operation of or control over the casino.”

Tribal police and other security personnel have to stay at least 1,000 feet from the gambling venue.

Ever since the casino opened in 2003, tribe members have been arguing and battling. The tribe shrunk from 1,800 to 900 as hundreds have been stripped of their tribal affiliation. Along with their share of casino profits, disenrolled members lose education privileges, as well as health and tax benefits.

Two sides were formed and they both have their own council. After appealing to the US Bureau of Indian Affairs for recognition and being told to work it out themselves, they started to attack each other.

The temporary order issued by Judge O’Neill will be reviewed soon.

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Chukchansi Casino Faces Uncertain Times after Armed Standoff

Oct 15, 2014
Chukchansi Casino faces uncertain times after armed standoff

Chukchansi Casino faces uncertain times after armed standoff

A Federal Judge decided to order down the closure of Chukchansi casino in California after different groups of Indian tribes got involved in an armed altercation at the gaming center. The Judge ruled that they may have endangered lives and posed considerable healthy risks to both employees and players that were present in the casino at the time of the event.

abc30.com: 1,300 employees out of work during Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino shutdown

Gambling news reports that the popular Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino has been closed under federal orders issued by an esteemed judge. Different Indian factions came to an armed standoff as part of efforts to take control of the gaming establishment which later lead to a lockdown of the casino.

Now the owners are pushing hard to have the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino reopened as soon as possible. Every single day that is remains closed serves a blow to their finances, as massive revenue is lost. Chukchansi Indian Co-Chairman Reggie Lewis stressed that the local community and employees depend on revenues generated by the casino operations.

“A lot of people depend on the casino. And since it has been opened, that’s the way everybody looks at it; it’s an asset, and we want to keep our asset functional,” stated Lewis. The casino was closed following an event that involved 20 gunmen storming into the building in an attempt to seize control of the entire establishment.

Reports indicate that the gunmen are part of a tribal faction led by Tex McDonald who stresses the casino is in fact theirs and all of the proceeds generated by Chukchansi belong to their tribe. “They came in here about a month ago and took our casino over, and they’re illegally here. So we came in and we claimed our casino.”

The Fresno Bee: Chukchansi casino closure puts planned events, interrupted gamblers in limbo

The Chukchansi is set to miss out on a great of events due to its closure. The alumni of Hoover High School were planning on staging a reunion event this upcoming Saturday, however now they won’t be able to do so considering the recent circumstances that led to current predicament that casino is in.

Stacey Olmos is one of the members of the reunion committee and she stated that the group gathered $7,500 from 167 Hoover graduates and paid the money to host the event at the prominent casino. With the Chukchansi now closed until further notice, they don’t seem to have any viable options to get the money back.

The altercations involved two Indian factions which led to some casino personnel in receiving injures as a result of the armed struggle. Separate groups of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians have been at it for a number of years. Now the casino has taken center stage as each faction is claiming that the popular gaming establishment belongs to them.

As a direct result of the attempted takeover that involved a hostile battle, the National Indian Gaming Commission and the state attorney general gave orders for the casino to be shut down. It has been reported that the faction that tried to take the casino is led by Tex McDonald, and that in fact the business initially belonged to them and not the current holders.

Yahoo! Finance: California casino is closed after armed standoff

Following the events that occurred last week at the Chukchansi casino, there seems to be no imminent reopening date set on the agenda for the popular establishment. Tribal factions were involved in an armed standoff involving the takeover, however officials have expressed that the casino may be closed for some time as they continue to investigate the circumstances.

Over a decade ago a similar event unfolded in Iowa that also involved two Indian factions. Two leadership factions were sanctioned by the National Indian Gaming Commission which marked the last casino closure that involved a politically motivated background in the US.

A tribal faction took control of the Meskwaki Casino & Hotel, however the action was not authorized by the federal government. Once the deadline for the rogue group to leave passed, the commission chairman released an order to temporarily close the business. Later the closure turned permanent and the owners had to wait a full 7 points until it could reopen.

Phil Hogen, a former NIGC chairman, highlighted, “The ones physically running the place were not recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and could not come to an agreement to put the recognized folks in place. From what I’ve heard about (Chukchansi), it’s much more explosive than Meskwaki.”

PoliticsHome: Four bookmakers set up watchdog to keep themselves in check

Latest gambling news reports that a federal judge by the name of Lawrence O’Neill ordered the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino to shut down after tribal factions tried to take control of the business. The judge was acting on emergency request from the state attorney general and has expressed that there is no immediate date set for the casino to reopen for the public.

After deciding that the casino posed a threat to the public, the National Indian Gaming Commission issued an express order for the establishment to be closed. Reports suggest that each faction controlled a different part of the casino, and neither wanted to stand down as they each believed they had the right to seize control of what is theirs.

Madera County Sheriff John Anderson stated that around 500 people quickly rushed out of the casino once they figured what was happening. He stressed that tension were high for weeks before leading up to the event that occurred on Thursday and has sought assistance on the matter from the state and federal officials.

Despite making no arrests in the lengthy process, the Sheriff’s department was able to cool down the tensions. Anderson said, “When they move the war into the casino, it meant we had to stop this. We have not been getting closer to a solution. If anything, we have gotten farther away.”

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