Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Iowa Tribe Gets Scalp Of Its Own Inside Casino Cheat!

A Meskwaki tribe member was sentenced to 10 years for stealing from his own tribe's casino. If you ask me, I think the punishment is a bit harsh, don´t you? Read the article and let me know what you think.

Ryan Roberts, a member of the Toledo, Ohio Meskwaki tribe, stole $480,000 from the Meskwaki Bingo-Casino-Hotel because he has a gambling addiction, his attorney Matthew Boles told a 6th Judicial District Judge Thursday. Boles said during a sentencing hearing Roberts destroyed his career as a manager in the poker department and his standing within the Meskwaki community. "That's all he had. He's 42 and he has nothing." Boles asked the judge to forgo jail time and instead, give Roberts a deferred judgment, gambling rehab and make him pay restitution.

Assistant Tama County Attorney Michael Marquess asked for 10 years and restitution for the one count of theft because from 2006 to 2008 he took money 137 times. He stole an average of $3,500 each month from the casino. "One of their own tribal members are taking their lifeblood from the community," Marquess said. "It's one of their biggest assets."

Judge Nancy Baumgartner said this wasn't an easy case because there's no violence involved but Roberts stole an enormous amount of money, and while she doesn't doubt his addiction, everything can't be excused because of it. Baumgartner sentenced Roberts to the maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for one count of theft and ordered him to pay restitution of the $480,0000. Marquess said he was relieved after hearing Baumgartner's ruling because he was outraged over a pre-sentence report that recommended a deferred sentence for Roberts.

"It's outrageous and disrespectful to the Meskwaki community. If the judge granted the deferred judgment, there would be no jail time and his record would be swept clean," Marquess said. Marquess said this was the largest theft in the Tama community, and no jail time would have sent the wrong message. "How much has to be taken before someone is given jail time?" he said.

Several members of the Meskwaki community were in the courtroom but only casino officials and the Tribal Council wrote victim's impact statements that weren't read in court but entered into the record.

Marquess said the casino officials asked the court to "do justice" and the Tribal Council asked the judge to give Roberts the maximum sentence.

Leodean Peters, a Meskwaki tribal member, said the other community members who attended court were reluctant to say they supported the prosecution because they don't want it to adversely affect them. Some of the community members still support Roberts, he said. Peters said the theft especially affects the community now since the per capita payments have dropped to $500 a month. The members were receiving $2,000 a month since the casino opened in 1992 to around 2005 and then it dropped to $900 and now it's $500.

"Justice was partially served," Peters said after the hearing. He hopes the case will be picked up in federal court.

Donald Wanatee, a former Tribal Council, said in an interview Tuesday nobody had the "right to steal from another's checking account. I hope he goes to prison and I want people to know what's going on in Tama County."

Roberts pleaded guilty Dec. 19. There were 18 original charges because the police counted each month a theft was committed, but Marquess lumped them together for one overarching theft charge.

Roberts signed out vouchers to use for promotional prizes and pocketed the money. Management discovered the theft after observing on casino surveillance cameras Roberts taking money into his office, which is against casino policy.