MILWAUKEE — The National Indian Gaming Commission has proposed fining the St. Croix Chippewa $5.5 million over accusations that the Wisconsin tribe's leaders pocketed at least $1.5 million in casino funds.
The commission's chairman, Jonodev Chaudhuri, issued a notice of the proposed fines on Thursday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. It comes a month after Chaudhuri charged the tribe with 527 violations of federal and tribal ordinances.
The maximum fine for the alleged violations would be $27.7 million.
Chaudhuri said the tribal leaders' actions were "egregious" given the tribe's precarious financial situation. Many members of the Burnett County-based tribe live in poverty.
Regulators said some of the funds were used for trips to Hawaii and Las Vegas.
"The tribe would have an additional $1.5 million in available funds if they had not been repeatedly doled out to the tribe's own leaders, 'consultants' and others for personal gain," Chaudhuri said.
Many tribal officials knew about the illicit payments but failed to stop them, he said.
"The seriousness of these violations and their effect on the St. Croix Indians of Wisconsin, as well as the reputation of tribal gaming across the nation, cannot be overstated," Chaudhuri said.
The tribe can appeal the recommended fine to commissioners.