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Former Seneca leader indicted

A federal grand jury in Buffalo has returned a 13-count indictment charging Bergal L. Mitchell III, 37, of Gowanda, with one count each of bribery; theft by an officer or employee of a gaming establishment on Indian land; wire fraud; and conspiracy; as well as eight counts of money laundering, according to U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr.

The theft and wire fraud charges each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a fine of $1 million or both; the bribery and money laundering charges each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, while the conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony M. Bruce and James P. Kennedy Jr. said the indictment charges that the defendant, who was formerly a tribal councilor of the Seneca Nation of Indians and who was, in 2006, vice chairman of the board of directors of the Seneca Gaming Corporation, unlawfully siphoned for himself $338,000 out of the $2.1 million that the SNI and its subsidiaries paid in order to purchase 251 acres of farmland in the town of Lewiston, Niagara County. The land now serves as the site for the Seneca Hickory Stick Golf Course. 

It is further alleged that Mitchell, together with former Lewiston attorney Timothy J. Toohey, developed a scheme to receive a portion of the proceeds of the monies paid by the SNI and its subsidiaries, the SGC and the Seneca Niagara Falls Gaming Corp., to purchase the land for the golf course.

The indictment alleges that Mitchell actively promoted the land acquisition to the SNI  prior to the Tribal Council adopting a resolution authorizing the purchase and that he thereafter played a key role in negotiating the sales contract on behalf of the SNI. The indictment further alleges that Mitchell, despite his role as an agent of the Nation and an officer and employee of the SGC, failed to disclose to the SNI governing bodies the fact that he and Toohey had inflated the cost of the land in order to ensure that he and Toohey would each receive a portion of the money paid by the SNI for the land. Toohey, who previously pleaded guilty to unlawfully receiving an additional $202,000 of the proceeds of the land deal, is currently awaiting sentencing before U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Arcara.

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