US federal agents came knocking on the doors of the Pojoaque Pueblo tribe over the weekend, seizing a total of $10.1 million in gambling revenue.
According to The Santa Fe New Mexican, the seizure was part of a government-initiated civil forfeiture process that stemmed from the years-long earnings tussle between the state of New Mexico and the tribe. Records showed that the bank account had $10,128,847.42 at the end of January.
The dispute stemmed from the failure of the Pojoaque Pueblo tribe and the state of New Mexico to agree on a new gambling compact after their last agreement expired in 2015.
The impasse dragged on for two years, but the U.S. attorney allowed the tribe to continue operating its casinos provided they abided by a few conditions.
One of the conditions that the state set for the Pojoaque Pueblo was to open a bank account where the tribe could set aside an amount equivalent to the proceeds it would be required to turn over to the government once the impasse was resolved.
After signing a new gambling agreement in 2017, the federal government and the tribes locked horns on who will keep the money set aside during the dispute.
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice flexed its muscle and told the tribe that the money in the bank was the fruits of illegal gambling. The feds said allowing the tribe to keep the money is tantamount to giving them a tax holiday for the two-year absence of a gambling compact.
Pojoaque Pueblo Gov. Joseph Talachy slammed the government’s move to initiate forfeiture proceedings, saying that the money should have been used instead to fund the tribe’s needs and for economic development.
“The money in this account by law should help provide food, shelter, education and other basic necessities for the Pueblo’s people, including funds to fight the overwhelming opioid epidemic that is devastating the Pueblo,” Talachy said in a statement.