Tribal chairman convicted of bribery and tax evasion charges
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) _ A jury convicted the tribal chairman of the Keweenaw Bay Indians today of accepting $127,000 in bribes from a New Jersey slot machine dealer and evading taxes on the money.
Prosecutors argued that chairman Fred Dakota had taken kickbacks from Jerrold Polinsky, whose company operated 200 slot machines at the tribe’s casino in Baraga County in the western Upper Peninsula.
Prosecutors said the company, International Gaming Management, was to get 35 percent of the slot machine profits. The tribe would get the rest. But Polinsky paid Dakota $127,000 from his percentage from 1991-1993.
Both men were convicted of bribery; Dakota also was convicted three counts of tax evasion and Polinsky was convicted of conspiracy. Dakota faces up to 19 years in prison and Polinsky faces up to 15 years.
``I’m happy for our people,″ said Georgianna Emery, a member of Fight for Justice, the dissident group that seized the tribal center in August 1995 and held it for 18 months.
``I hope it can bring us back together,″ she said.
Dakota retains his position until action is taken by the tribal council, said his son, Brad Dakota.
Neither father nor son would comment on the conviction today. But Dakota’s attorney said an appeal was in the works.
Both men say the money was an advance to Dakota, 60, for his future role as Indian spokesman for a telephone lottery game proposed by Polinsky. The game, however, never got off the ground, and a formal agreement between the two was never produced at trial.
Dakota did not repay the money. He testified on Tuesday that he didn’t declare the payments as income because he had not performed services yet.
The payments stopped in 1993, prosecutors said, because the lease with International Gaming Management terminated once the tribe had a compact with Michigan officials to operate the slot machines.
But Polinsky testified Dakota asked him to stop sending checks because he thought he was getting too far in debt.