Defense Against Indian Gaming Law Violations in Wisconsin: Penalties for Embezzlement, Theft, & Money Laundering

Updated by Stangl Law on September 27, 2022

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If you’ve been accused of violating Indian gaming law, you might find yourself wondering what to do next. Facing charges of embezzlement, money laundering, or other white collar crimes is daunting for anyone. The first thing to do is take a deep breath, arm yourself with information, and consult a skilled attorney familiar with these types of cases.

This post will provide you with a few points, but given the unique and substantive frameworks that govern Indian gaming in the United States, it’s absolutely essential to engage an attorney who has demonstrated experience and success defending Indian gaming cases. Contact Attorney Pat Stangl to discuss your case.

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Below, I present important legislation pertaining to tribal gaming, penalties, and how defense Attorney Patrick Stangl successfully defended an Indian gaming law violation case in Wisconsin.

1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act

The 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was a landmark decision for tribal gaming nationwide. It was the result of a Supreme Court ruling in the case of California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians. The “IGRA'' provided a statutory basis to regulate Indian gaming.

The court held that “The state of California had no authority to apply its Regulatory statutes to gambling activities conducted in Indian Country,” (IRS).

In short, the act stated that certain types of gambling were permitted on tribal land, while other types required a Tribal/State compact. Most notably, the act defines:

  • Where gaming can occur
  • Compact requirements
  • Gaming classes and restrictions

With the passage of IGRA, Congress formed The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) to regulate tribal gaming (Wisconsin Legislature).

Penalties for Theft from Tribal Gaming Establishments

Theft from gaming establishments on Indian lands (18 U.S. Code Section 1167)

According to the U.S. Government Publishing Office, the penalties for theft from tribal gaming establishments include:

  • Under 1 year – 10 years imprisonment
  • A fine
  • Or both

Read the full text via 18 U.S. Code Section 1167: Theft from gaming establishments on Indian lands

Theft by officers or employees of gaming establishments on Indian lands (18 U.S. Code Section 1168

Officers or employees of a casino who took property may be subject to penalties such as:

  • Fine of $250,000 – $1,000,000
  • Up to 20 years in prison
  • Or both

Read the full text via 18 U.S. Code Section 1168: Theft by officers or employees of gaming establishments on Indian lands

In general, penalties tend to be milder if the property taken was equivalent to $1,000 or less.

Criminal Penalties for Money Laundering

Title 31 is the part of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) relating to casinos, enforced by FinCEN of the U.S. Treasury.

According to the IRS, intentional violations in BSA record keeping requirements can result in penalties, including:

  • Fine of up to $1,000
  • Up to 1 year of imprisonment, per violation
  • Or both

In addition, intentional violations of the BSA transaction reporting requirements can result in penalties including:

  • Fine of up to $250,000
  • Up to 5 years of imprisonment
  • Or both

In both cases, additional violations can increase penalties to a significant degree. Violations as a result of negligence can result in civil penalties.

Enforcement Authorities of the National Indian Gaming Commission

The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) is responsible for enforcing a broad range of statutory and regulatory requirements, and has the authority to take both administrative and civil actions to ensure regulatory compliance.

Under 25 U.S.C. § 2713(1), The Chair of the NIGC has the authority to issue:

  1. Notices of Violations (NOVs);
  2. Orders of Temporary Closure (COs);
  3. Civil Fine Assessments (CFAs), and
  4. Enter into Settlement Agreements (SAs) with members of the regulated industry for violations relating to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), its implementing regulations, and tribal gaming ordinances.

The Chair can impose civil fines of up to $25,000 per violation, against a tribe, a tribal regulatory body, or a management contractor engaged in gaming for any violation of any provision of IGRA, NIGC regulations, or tribal gaming ordinances. Under 25 U.S.C. §2713(a)(2), this civil fine can be appealed to the full commission at a hearing prescribed by regulations.

Under 25 U.S.C. §2713(a)(3), whenever the NIGC has "reason to believe" a tribal operator or management contractor is engaged in activities that may result in a fine, permanent closure of the operation, or modification of the management contract, the NIGC must provide a "written complaint stating the acts or omissions which form the basis for such belief and the action or choice of action being considered.”

Case Study: Defense Against Embezzlement from a Gaming Casino

Recently, Patrick Stangl defended a Native American casino manager who was charged with embezzlement from the casino.

The evidence indicated that this tribal elder was given approval by the tribal board to make improvements to his house based upon his service to the tribe.

Stangl ultimately contended that given insufficient evidence and the consent of the elders, the funds used by the defendant to make improvements to his home constituted something akin to a bonus.

The original embezzlement charges were dismissed, and the defendant pled to one count of tax evasion, a less serious charge than the numerous embezzlement charges he was facing.

If you’ve been accused of violations of Indian gaming law or suspect you’re currently under investigation, it’s crucial to secure skilled legal counsel with a proven track record as soon as possible. Contact Patrick Stangl today for a free consultation.

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Topics: Other Criminal Charges, Fraud Charges, Federal Charges



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