Feds seize millions in gaming revenue from New Mexico tribe
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – The federal government has seized a bank account with more than $10 million in gambling revenue from New Mexico’s Pojoaque Pueblo.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that it’s part of a years-long dispute over the share of earnings the state receives from Pojoaque’s casinos north of the city.
The newspaper reports the tribe set aside the funds after its previous gambling agreement with the state expired in 2015.
The U.S. attorney at the time allowed the tribe to keep its casinos open without an agreement in place as long as Pojoaque Pueblo would abide by a few conditions.
They included a requirement that the tribe place the same share of proceeds it would have been required to turn over to the state into a bank account until a legal battle over the gambling compact was finally resolved.
The tribe ended up signing on to a new compact with the state last year, but Pojoaque Pueblo’s leaders and the New Mexico government have remained at odds over who should keep the money that piled up during the two-year dispute.
The U.S. Department of Justice confirmed last Friday that it had filed in federal court to begin forfeiture proceedings and resolve all claims for the money.
Federal prosecutors said they now have initiated a civil forfeiture process to address the impasse that has arisen between the state and the pueblo.
Pojoaque Pueblo officials accused the federal government of violating an agreement with them in a move they said was meant to punish the tribe and maintained they are not required to pay the state a share of revenue earned when there was no gambling compact in place.
The tribe has instead sought to keep the money for its needs and to promote economic development.
“The money in this account by law should help provide food, shelter, education and other basic necessities for the Pueblo’s people, including funds to fight the overwhelming opioid epidemic that is devastating the Pueblo,” Pojoaque Pueblo Gov. Joseph Talachy said in a statement.
State officials have argued that allowing Pojoaque to keep the money would amount to giving the tribe a tax holiday for the two years it was not covered by the gambling compact.