Accountability from their leaders is what some tribal citizens of the federally recognized Jicarilla Apache Nation are calling for after losses totaling more than $2 million were logged at one of its New Mexico casinos.
According to the Rio Grande Sun…
After the results of a 2017 forensic audit of the Apache Nugget Casino were revealed, tribal citizens began seeking signatures on a trio of petitions:
- Impeachment of President Levi Pesata
- Removal of Council Member Sheryl Vigil
- Removal of Nation Comptroller Chad Eaton.
The newspaper reports that according to the forensic audit of the casino, which is located approximately 15 miles north of Cuba, Chad Eaton, the former chief financial officer for the gaming venue, took part in embezzlement and questionable spending after being hired at the urging of the tribe’s president.
Eaton, whose mother, Sheryl Vigil, is a member of the tribal council, reportedly embezzled thousands of dollars in Tribal funds during his stint a chief financial officer of the Apache Nugget Casino.
It was further communicated by the paper that a letter addressed to the Nation’s Legislative Council, dated November 17, 2017, from the Apache Nugget Corporation Board of Directors, details how a network of Eaton’s family, friends and supporters either benefited from the misappropriation of Tribal funds or attempted to hinder the Board and other Tribal regulatory agency’s efforts to uncover his alleged illegal spending.
In total, Eaton’s hiring and spending influenced casino profits to the tune of $744, 792 and had a $1.3 million effect on the cash balances of the casino, as reported by the paper.
Petition seeks removal:
A petition is now being circulated by Tribal citizens to have Eaton removed from his position as Nation Comptroller.
Pesata made Eaton the Nation’s comptroller last year after he left his position at the casino. He still holds the position to this day.
Petition number two looks to have Jicarilla Apache Nation President Levi Pesata impeached. In 2012, a directive was issued by Pesata stating that the Council wanted Eaton to be hired as the Apache Nugget Casino’s chief financial officer. And while hiring by directive is not authorized by the Board’s charter, Eaton still got the job.
The Board’s letter states…
“The Board felt that it had no power to challenge the Legislative Council and the President, so Chad Eaton was reluctantly hired.
“ANC started losing money thereafter, and questions about Chad Eaton’s expenditures and activities came under scrutiny, resulting in his abrupt resignation (in 2016.)”
The third petition seeks the removal of Eaton’s mother, Sheryl Vigil.
Commission sought inquiry:
According to the Board’s letter, approximate to the time he left his position at the casino, the Legislative Council started to question the Board about declining casino revenues. The Jicarilla Apache Gaming Regulatory Commission additionally inquired about casino operations, “including questions about the past use of credit cards and various personal expenditures, including those of former CEO Chad Eaton.”
The letter furthermore states that a request by the Board to conduct a forensic audit of the casino’s finances was met with refusal by the Commission. The audit was instead paid for by the casino.
Eaton’s sister, Melissa Eaton, is also the chair of the Jicarilla Apache Gaming Regulatory Commission.
The audit of the Apache Nugget Casino was conducted by Albuquerque-based certified public accounting firm Atkinson & Co. LTD. Records from 2015 and 2016 were provided to the auditors, but they did not receive records from year 2012 through 2014, according to the newspaper.