Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Detroiters Strather, Deitch provided $4 million fund that enabled wrongdoing by ex-tribal chairman

Detroit casino syndicators Herb Strather and Laurence Deitch provided $4 million fund that enabled wrongdoing by former Indian tribe chairman.

According to details released by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), a Michigan-based casino syndicate controlled by Strather and Deitch dumped $4 million into a dormant tribal enterprise enabling their partner, then the chairman of a Massachusetts Indian tribe, to commit wire fraud and carry out schemes that violated federal campaign finance laws.

All this and more is outlined in the DOJ release and in charges filed in U.S. District Court against former Mashpee Wampanoag tribal chairman Glenn A. Marshall who has admitted wrongdoing and plead guilty on all charges in order to realize reduced sentencing. Marshall also agreed to cooperate in other related investigations.

Marshall’s attorney Robert Craven told the Boston Globe, "Glenn didn't dream up the scheme himself. He was getting bad advice."

Strather formed AtMashpee LLC in 2000 to provide funding and direct legal and lobbying activity necessary to earn federal recognition for the Mashpee Tribe; ultimately paving the way to build a large casino resort on Cape Cod that was to rival Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun. In exchange for bankrolling the plans, AtMashpee LLC and Strather would get 6 to 6.5% of casino revenues over a 20 year period – a deal valued by some to have been worth up to $1.2 billion.

According to the Boston Globe, Marshall was elected Mashpee chairman shortly after Strather became involved with the tribe. And in 2005 when Marshall’s leadership was challenged, Strather took measures to ensure Marshall would be re-elected as chairman.

Strather the largest investor in AtMashpee, is noted as “Investor A” in court documents. He syndicated interest in the limited liability company with 200 other investors – perhaps some of the same individuals who invested alongside Strather and Deitch in the venture (Atwater Entertainment Associates) that eventually became Detroit’s MotorCity Casino.

It is worth noting that according to documents filed with the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth, Laurence B. Deitch, an attorney who is also a University of Michigan Regent, has been the Resident Agent for AtMashpee since 2001. While Strather has confirmed he is “Investor A” it is not clear if Deitch is the party noted in court documents as “Investor B,” a resident of Michigan and a fellow investor in AtMashpee LLC.

Another former Atwater investor and resident of Michigan, J. Ronald Slavik, is ties to the Mashpee casino scheme as well. Slavik was one of the original partners including Sol Kerzner and Len Wolman in Trading Cove Associates, which developed and managed the Mohegan Sun casino resort in Connecticut. Kerzner and Wolman have taken over controlling interest in the proposed Mashpee Casino. It's also possible Slavik is "Investor B."

From 2003-2007, AtMashpee pumped $4 million into a secret fund under the dormant Mashpee Fisherman’s Association. Those funds were used in part to pay lobbyists and political consultants. At one point, they retained the now disgraced former D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff to represent their interests and engaged him in their political contributions scheme. The tribe did receive federal recognition in early 2007 and has been pursuing controversial plans to develop a large casino resort in Middleborough, MA.

In addition to wire fraud and laundering campaign contributions, Strather gave Marshall $380,000 which he used to pay for personal expenses: groceries, jewelry, tuition payments for his daughter, vacations and his Countrywide mortgage. Strather also made other monthly payments to Marshall who failed to disclose the gifts and payments to the IRS and Social Security Administration.

DOJ Announcement
Complaint filed in U.S. District Court
Plea Agreement

Associated Press: Ex-tribal head in Mass. to plead guilty to fraud
Boston Herald: Ex-Mashpee Wampanoag chairman charged, tied to Abramoff
Cape Cod Times: Mashpee Wampanoag, Investors manipulate Cape tribe, Secretive club holding casino cards

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