A reputed crime syndicate tried to infiltrate and control an Indian casino near San Diego, the second time in 10 years that the casino was allegedly targeted, according to federal indictments unsealed Friday.
Seventeen people were charged, including a former member of the tribe’s governing council who was accused of accepting a bribe, said U.S. Attorney Alan Bersin. Most of the charges involve organized crime figures from Pittsburgh and Ohio, he said. They have surrendered or arranged to surrender.
“This is the kind of threat that we need to remain vigilant about,” Bersin said at a news conference.
The indictments unsealed in San Diego and Pittsburgh allege that the defendants took control of the Columbia Group, a Nevada-registered investment consortium that funded the 1995 reopening of the Rincon River Oaks Casino.
The casino, about 35 miles northeast of San Diego, would allegedly have been used to launder money. But the casino was quickly shut down because a federal judge ruled it violated an agreement to limit the use of video slot machines, which are illegal in the state.
The indictment also alleges they tried to hide the funding and activities of the Columbia Group from the National Indian Gaming Commission.
Two people named in the indictment are charged with trying to bribe a member of the Rincon Tribal Council by giving her a leased car.
Others are charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to launder $1.2 million in illegal gambling receipts or transporting 250 illegal gambling machines to the Rincon reservation.
Similar charges were made 10 years ago during two previous attempts to establish a casino on the Rincon reservation.
One tribal member and nine Chicago reputed organized crime figures were convicted in 1993 of racketeering, extortion and other charges.