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Story - News

Oct 31, 2016 6:23 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Shinnecock Gaming Official Pleads Guilty To Hacking Emails, Setting Off Tribal Divisions

Nov 4, 2016 8:00 AM

A former member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation’s Gaming Authority pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday to illegally breaking into another tribe member’s email account in 2012 and disseminating information about plans to develop a sprawling hotel and entertainment complex at the Nassau Coliseum—with a Shinnecock-operated casino being a central element.

Karen Hunter, 62, pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor computer fraud in the U.S. Eastern District Court in Central Islip on Monday afternoon, following negotiations that allowed her to avoid arrest and arraignment in exchange for agreeing to waive her right to trial or appeal.

She admitted to having illegally accessed the Yahoo email account of Charles Randall, a tribe member who was quarterbacking negotiations involving the tribe, developers and Nassau County officials over the coliseum proposal.

U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme, chief of the U.S. Justice Department’s National Security and Cyber Crimes section, told Magistrate Arlene Lindsay that Ms. Hunter had accessed Mr. Randall’s email through an outside computer using his login information. He did not explain how she obtained that information.

Ms. Hunter made no statement in court other than to admit that she had logged into Mr. Randall’s email server, knowing that she did not have permission to do so. She offered no motive for doing so.

Her attorney, Randi Chavis, declined to comment on the case following the plea agreement.

A date for Ms. Hunter’s sentencing has yet to be set but will take place within the next 90 days. She faces up to one year in jail and fines of up to $100,000, though Mr. DuCharme told the judge that his office would be more likely to recommend a jail sentence of no more than six months.

The stolen emails—and the accusations that accompanied their subsequent release to the entire tribe—touched off an internal leadership dispute, sunk the tribe’s once lofty hopes for casino developments across Long Island and New York City, and gouged a deep chasm among tribal members that has yet to heal four years later.

The emails became the basis of an internal campaign by a faction of the tribe’s leadership in the summer of 2012 to remove two elected officials, Tribal Trustees Gordell Wright and Lance Gumbs, and two members of the Gaming Authority, Barre Hamp and Phil Brown, from their official positions. The four men had been the driving force behind an effort to look more circumspectly at agreements with Gateway Casino Resorts and its front man, Michael Malik, over the tribe’s gaming plans.

The men have maintained throughout the ordeal that Mr. Malik was behind the hacking of the emails and the campaign to oust them from their tribal roles in order to prevent them from exposing agreements that heavily favored the developer and robbed the tribe of potentially billions of dollars in future revenues.

Citing information lifted from the hacked emails from Mr. Randall’s account, and delivered to Mr. Malik, the four men were accused of corruption and abuse of office on the basis of the deal for a sprawling tribal partnership in the redevelopment of the Nassau Coliseum that they had been negotiating with Mr. Randall’s help. Their accusers said they had concealed their negotiations from the tribe, in violation of tribal rules stating that the entire tribal membership would have to vote to support such a project. The men have stated that information about the Nassau Coliseum proposal had been shared at meetings that were open to all members of the tribe, and that the project never advanced to the point where it needed to be brought before them for approval.

A New York City non-profit watchdog group, City Limits, later uncovered contracts signed by Tribal Trustees Randy King, Fred Bess and Gerrod Smith nearly a year earlier, before tribe members had even approved the partnership with Gateway, for a casino development deal in Queens that had never been shown to other tribe members.

The men maintained that they were railroaded by tribe members who were working to protect deals made in secret with Mr. Malik and who also viewed their doubts and intimate familiarity with tribal gaming contracts as potential threats.

“Karen isn’t alone in this,” Mr. Gumbs said from inside the cavernous federal courthouse in Central Islip on Monday while awaiting Ms. Hunter’s court appearance. “She’s just a pawn in this. There are others in the tribe who were involved in this.”

The charges against Ms. Hunter are believed to have stemmed from a 2013 raid of tribal Gaming Authority offices, as well as Ms. Hunter’s home, by FBI agents. Mr. Randall, who was in court on Monday, said he has been told by investigators that other charges stemming from the federal investigation could be forthcoming.

A little more than a year later, the Gaming Authority’s offices on the reservation were destroyed in a fire that investigators said was intentionally set. No arrests have been made in that crime.

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Ms. Hunter exposes a corrupt leader and she's the one prosecuted? Seems like an injustice.
By dfree (805), hampton bays on Nov 1, 16 9:12 AM
Enough with the Emails already...geez!
By Toma Noku (616), Southampton on Nov 1, 16 10:27 AM
Another Lance sided article,

Ok, so now we know how the emails were obtained so what’s the big hoo-ha about Charles Randall “quarterbacking negotiations involving the tribe, developers and Nassau County officials over the Coliseum proposal!” that caused two trustees to be impeached and two gaming authority members to be removed?
Were they maybe conducting gaming business independent of the elected Gaming Authority and without the tribe’s knowledge?

If ...more
By maliktolosersblackops (1), Southampton on Nov 2, 16 2:15 PM
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