Almost two years ago, two former casino executives were accused of using a secret credit card to pay for extravagant vacations and to steal money from a Northern California tribe and the casino they were hired to manage. Facing the allegations in court, they balked at the charges. However, they continuously refused to follow the lawsuit through to its legal end. As a result, they will now be forced to pay millions in restitution, provided they can be caught.
Casino Becomes Personal Piggy Bank
Former Gold Country Casino Resort employees Deborah Howard and Jesse Brown repeatedly decided to ignore the 2020 lawsuit by the Berry Creek Rancheria for Maidu Indians. According to the Sacramento Bee, a California federal court has sided with the tribe after given the pair more than enough rope.
The tribe claims that the couple stole money from a fund intended to purchase Christmas gifts for children, and charged $1.3 million on a hidden credit card between 2011 and 2016. The tribe also claims that the casino’s ex-chief financial officer and tribal administrator gave themselves unjustified raises to support their “burgeoning lavish lives.”
The tribe’s case was built, in part, around a credit card provided under the name of the tribe in 2011. It was used to finance a variety of entertainment and vacation tickets, but not for tribal or casino activity.
According to the tribe, the credit card was used to book hotels in Las Vegas and ski trips in Lake Tahoe. It also allowed for thousands of dollars to spend on professional sporting events, including NASCAR and UFC events. During a 2016 audit, the tribe revealed that over 1,000 credit card purchases had been made without authorization.
The tribe stated in court that the card was used to pay for all kinds of extravagant personal expenses, including entertainment and travel-related ones. These purchases included concerts, luxury vacations and more.
Tribe Proves its Case in Court
The tribe provided statements and financial records to support their claim for actual and triple damages. The Williams & Cochrane law firm of Sacramento represented the tribe. They also requested that the court add interest to the staggering amount allegedly charged by defendants.
There were multiple court hearings put on the schedule, but neither of the two accused showed up. This went on for months, with patience continuously growing thinner.
A magistrate judge ruled last month that the tribe’s interstate commerce claims were strong. He recommended that the defendants pay $8.8 million plus 7% interest in a 10-page decision. The recommendations were adopted by US District Judge John Mendez on Monday and the request of the plaintiff for default judgment was entered. The tribe could receive more than the requested amount, as Mendez has told the tribe to come back within a month with a new figure that includes interest.
Howard and Brown didn’t file contact information with the court, which will make it difficult to track them down. Howard, also known as Deborah Brown, denied the allegations in a 2020 interview with The Sacramento Bee.