|Silver Star Casino and Resort|
Law-enforcement officials are on the grounds of two casinos in Philadelphia, Mississippi, as part of a federal investigation, multiple news outlets are reporting this afternoon.
The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians operates the Silver Star and Golden Moon casinos. The Choctaws reportedly funneled $13 million, through Republican lobbyist and felon Jack Abramoff, to help Bob Riley get elected governor in Alabama in 2002. Riley last year launched a series of raids against gaming facilities in Alabama, apparently in an effort to protect the Choctaws' market share. The Riley raids led to a federal electronic-bingo prosecution that is ongoing in Montgomery.
Is today's action in Mississippi an outgrowth of the Alabama electronic-bingo case? Could it help shine light on activities that helped turn Alabama into "ground zero" for prosecutorial misconduct under the Bush Justice Department? Could this be a sign that the Abramoff affair continues to generate scandal?
It's too early to have answers to such questions. But a report from television station WLBT in Jackson indicates big news might be brewing in Mississippi:
Law enforcement sources tell WLBT that federal agents have taken over the Silver Star casino in Philadelphia. We're told that federal agents are set up on the second floor of the Golden Moon Casino and are confiscating computer hard drives.
The Neshoba Democrat is reporting that the Tribal Council was informed this morning that the Pearl River Resort is under investigation.
The newspaper reports that the casinos remain open, but their status seems uncertain:
The FBI executed a search warrant Tuesday at Pearl River Resort, the Resort has confirmed.
"Representatives from the Department of Justice have executed a search warrant today at the Pearl River Resort," Maj. Gen. Paul Harvey, CEO of the Resort, said in a news release.
"The Resort is monitoring the situation closely and will continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement authorities in their investigation. There will be no interruption in the operation of business at the Resort."
Updated at 8:05 p.m. CDT, July 12--A reporter from the Neshoba Democrat was asked to leave a meeting where the Choctaw Tribal Council was updated on an FBI investigation.
Emotions were running high at the meeting. Reports the Neshoba newspaper:
One Tribal Council member mentioned computer hard drives being taken before the Democrat reporter was dismissed.
Pearl River Tribal Council member Cyrus Ben asked the Democrat reporter to leave the meeting.
Ben told the Democrat Tuesday afternoon that he was just trying to protect the Tribe and its interests in case something negative was said. "I did not mean any harm," he said. Ben said he supports open government and transparency.
"We are in the dark as much as you are," he said of the FBI raid on the casino.
At the meeting Kevin Edwards was elected Vice Chief and Ben was elected Secretary Treasurer.
There was shouting and name-calling at the meeting.
The focus of the investigation remains unclear. A recent tribal election was hotly contested, including charges about efforts to "steal the election." That could be a focus for federal authorities, but it's not clear why they would raid a casino over possible election irregularities.