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Riham Feshir, Forum Communications Co., Published December 23 2010

White Earth tribe wins Gaming World suit

WHITE EARTH, Minn. – White Earth tribal officials call it a victory – a 14-year struggle that ended with an $18.5 million settlement.

White Earth was awarded a tribal court settlement last week against former developer Angelo Medure and Gaming World International – hired to improve, develop, manage and operate all tribal gaming at the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen, Minn., in 1991 by former Chairman Chip Wadena.

This week, Chairwoman Erma Vizenor called Medure’s corporation a “laundering business” that stole money belonging to the people of White Earth.

The legal action was commenced in White Earth Tribal Court, and then removed by Gaming World and Medure to federal court, then remanded back to tribal court by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Winning the judgment in tribal court was a tremendous, tremendous victory,” she said at a news conference at the Shooting Star Casino on Tuesday.

The alleged conspiracy between Medure and Wadena lasted from 1991 to 1996. Medure is accused of spending just $42,000 to remodel the casino bathrooms, but leaving with $10.15 million in profit distributions.

“He invested $42,000 in this place, and walked off a millionaire,” Vizenor said.

Attempts to reach Medure and his attorney, Ro Manly, were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Tribal Attorney Zenas Baer said Medure used the contract he signed with the tribe, which was not approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, to collect the profits.

“Not only did Angelo take $10.15 million in profit distributions from the casino while having zero employees here at the casino,” Baer said, “but he also leveraged the relationship between Gaming World International and the Shooting Star Casino into an initial public offering in 1994.”

Because of that initial public offering, an additional $10.8 million was raised.

“So he converted $42,000 cash investment into a

$20 million payback,” Baer said.

But the contract also required Medure to pay back construction costs before any profit was made.

About $6.6 million of the construction funds came from the 1986 White Earth Land Settlement Act, which rectified the loss of tribal land and brought about some money for economic development, Vizenor said.

According to the casino management contract, that money was supposed to be repaid by Gaming World before any profits were distributed.

“It’s justice for all of us, including our heirs, our ancestors who lost our homeland here,” Vizenor said of the settlement.

The case has been docketed in Becker County District Court, which means that it’s now recognized in state and federal courts, Baer said.

Medure is expected to appeal the tribal court decision, but collection efforts of his assets will continue by White Earth officials.

“He is still very active in the development business,” Baer said. “As recently as 2007, he was able to raise $10 million for a project that he was interested in.”

Medure was also recently named “2010 Entrepreneur of the Year” in Lawrence County, Pa.

The settlement includes $8.4 million in interest accrued over the 14-year period.

“This settlement, financially, means a lot to us. We’re in no way, shape or form a rich tribe from gaming,” said District II Representative Terry Tibbetts.

Because Wadena committed willful misapplication of tribal funds, theft and bribery, he was charged and convicted in federal court of a 15-count felony indictment in 1996.

Feshir writes for the Detroit Lakes Tribune.