A former member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation’s tribal gaming authority pleaded guilty Monday to illegally accessing a private computer to obtain information in a move her victim said vindicated five men accused of tribal gaming irregularities.
Karen Hunter, 62, appearing in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, pleaded guilty before Magistrate Arlene Lindsay to the single misdemeanor charge, which carries a maximum sentence of a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Hunter was released on her own recognizance. A sentencing date has not been set.
Charles Randall, a Shinnecock tribal member whom prosecutors said was a victim of the theft, said in a statement that Hunter’s activities caused “far reaching” and “immeasurable harm” to himself and four other tribal leaders who were “falsely accused of intentionally trying to harm our tribe for personal gain.”
The Shinnecock government in 2012 removed tribal gaming authority members Barre Hamp and Phillip Brown V from their jobs, and tried to unseat tribal trustees Lance Gumbs and Gordell Wright from their positions, charging they sought to negotiate gaming deals without authorization.
Gumbs and Wright, denying the charges, refused to leave office and the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs continued to recognize them as leaders.
Each of the men denied wrongdoing, and charged their removal was part of an effort by Gateway Casino Resorts, which had a formal contract with the tribe, to remove them to clear the way for its own casino plans.
Prosecutor Seth DuCharme, chief of the Eastern District U.S. attorney’s office’s national security and cyber crime unit, said in court that Randall and Hunter had “different business interests.” DuCharme was not more specific about Hunter’s motives for illegally accessed Randall’s account.
Randall said Hunter and Gateway managing director Michael Malik amassed his emails to make their case to oust the men. Gateway is operated by Malik and partner Marion Ilitch, owner of Little Caesars Pizza, among other entities.
Tom Shields, a spokesman for Gateway Casino Resorts, which had a contract for gaming with the Shinnecocks and spent more than $55 million on the nation’s federal recognition efforts and other expenses, said, “we have no knowledge of any” such effort. He declined to discuss the contract or the tribe’s remaining debt to Gateway.
Shinnecock tribal spokeswoman Beverly Jensen noted 2012 was a “very difficult time in our tribal history,” and expressed sadness for Hunter. “It’s a very sad day to have any of our people have to go through this,” she said.
Hunter’s lawyer, public defender Randi Chavis, declined to comment.