Former Leech Lake chairman indicted for allegedly taking bribes

By Amy Forliti
Minneapolis, Minnesota (AP) 2-08

A former chairman of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe is accused of accepting bribes from a man who operated a check-cashing service in the tribe’s casinos, according to an indictment made public mid Febuary.

Former chairman Peter D. White and businessman Craig Keith Potts are accused of engaging in a conspiracy in which Potts paid money to influence White and be rewarded with business contracts. The conspiracy also attempted to defraud tribal members of “the intangible right to honest services” from officials who were accepting bribes, the indictment says.

White is charged with 17 counts of accepting illegal gratuities, three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. He allegedly accepted 17 payments from Potts’ companies totaling $19,000 over a four-month period.

The federal case against Potts has been pending since last March, but a superseding indictment filed in U.S. District Court expands the charges to 47 counts and includes White. Potts is charged with giving illegal gratuities, wire fraud, conspiracy, making false statements, and obstruction of justice.

“They just keep bringing new indictments, trying to find one they can live with,” Potts’ attorney, Roger Magnuson, said. This is the second superseding indictment in this case, and with each one, he said, the government has added new charges and new defendants.

“This is a gang that can’t shoot straight,” he said of the prosecutors. “The defendant is completely innocent.”

David Anderson, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said the superseding indictment speaks for itself.

Phone listings for a Peter D. White were either disconnected or had busy signals and the former chairman could not immediately be reached.

According to the indictment, White was the band’s chairman between February 2003 and June 2004. During this time, Potts co-owned a Minnesota company called Cash Systems Inc., which provided check-cashing and other services in Leech Lake casinos. Cash Systems was working with the tribe before White was elected chairman.

During White’s tenure, Potts and the band agreed to business contracts worth tens of thousands of dollars involving kiosks and the sale of cigarettes in the band’s casinos.

Potts also emerged as a possible financing source and slot-machine provider in an expansion project near Walker – which was never completed.

According to the indictment, White and Michael Johnson, the CEO of the band’s business corporation, requested and received payments from Potts while they were conducting business with him. These payments – made in several installments in the amounts of $1,000 or $1,500 – were not documented as loans and there was no record of any interest rate or repayment terms.

The indictment also says that in August 2003, Johnson met with Potts in Edina to discuss a payment of $60,000 to White. The indictment does not state whether that money was paid or received.

The indictment says an unnamed gaming employee might have learned of the alleged payments, and Johnson and Potts discussed giving the employee $35,000 to buy a mobile home. Potts arranged to transfer the money to the employee, who never went to authorities but also did not accept the value of the payment, the indictment says.

White ran for re-election as band chairman in 2004 and was defeated. A phone call seeking comment from current tribal Chairman George Goggleye Jr. was not immediately returned.

Johnson, the former business corporation CEO, has pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and was not charged in the latest superseding indictment.

 

 

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