Quapaw tribe charges former leader with embezzlement
Mike Seals - April 19, 2021 10:30 pm
QUAPAW, Okla. (AP) — The former chairman and secretary-treasurer for the Quapaw Nation have been charged in tribal court with embezzlement, abuse of office and other charges.
Former Chairman John Berrey was charged Friday with 11 criminal counts, while former Secretary-Treasurer Tamara Smiley-Reeves was charged with seven counts. Each count is punishable by up to three years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Some counts also are punishable by permanent ban from the tribe.
The charges stem from a forensic audit and investigation that was initiated in June 2020 by the Quapaw Nation Gaming Authority.
Berrey, the longtime leader of the northeast Oklahoma-based tribe, was defeated in his bid for reelection last summer. Berrey, in a statement, described the charges as politically motivated.
“It’s all made up, and it is strictly political,” Berrey said. “I’ll prove them wrong in this court trial, and I’m running for the vice chairman seat in July so I can begin to bring out people together and heal the Quapaw Nation.”
Smiley-Reeves could not be reached for comment, and court documents don’t indicate whether she has an attorney who could speak on her behalf.
According to an affidavit filed in the case, Berrey used casino funds for airfare, spa treatments, gifts and tickets to concerts and sporting events for his ex-wife, girlfriends, children and friends. The affidavit also alleges Berrey handed out improper bonuses to himself and other tribal leaders and casino executives.
Berrey, Smiley-Reeves and seven other former tribal officials also face civil complaints alleging fraud and unjust enrichment. The northeast Oklahoma-based tribe is seeking $7 million in damages from the nine individuals.