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Quapaw Lawyer Charged with $500K Saracen Casino Theft

Tiffany Burroughs
Updated: 5 August 2023
2 min to read

A former lawyer for the Quapaw Nation has been charged by federal prosecutors for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Saracen Casino in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
Former Quapaw Chairman John Berrey
In December 2019, John Berrey, former Quapaw chairman, displayed plans for the Saracen Casino. This sparked a comprehensive audit which eventually revealed Berrey and other tribal members committed crimes. Jack Brill, a board member of the Downstream Development Authority, is being charged for allegedly diverting $513K from the Casino in March and June 2020. Additionally, Brill allegedly tried to steal $128K a month later and allegedly conspired with other tribal officials, including Berrey, to redistribute around $2.3 million of tribal money among themselves. (Image: Fort Smith Times Record)

In December 2019, former Quapaw Chairman John Berrey made plans for the Saracen Casino publicly known, prompting an in-depth forensic audit that would later lead to allegations of criminal activity against Berrey and other tribal members. Jack Brill, a board member of the Nation’s Downstream Development Authority, was charged for purportedly taking $513,000 from the Casino in March and June of 2020 and trying to steal another $128,000 a month later. Brill is additionally accused of conspiring with other tribal officials, including Berrey, to illicitly divide up approximately $2.3 million of the tribe’s money. (Image: Fort Smith Times Record)

Berrey Accusations

In April 2021, charges were brought against former leader of the Quapaw Nation, John Berrey, Chief Financial Officer Merlin Kent Jones, and Treasurer Tamara Smiley-Reeves. Berrey, who had been leading the tribe for 20 years and in charge of a significant amount of its economic progress, was accused of “abusing his authority” in order to benefit himself and those around him. The Quapaw Nation detailed these accusations in a statement, which also referenced the earlier charges that had been filed in 2021. All of the defendants were, at that point, no longer members of the tribe’s leadership team or associated with their casino, Saracen. To hold them accountable, the Quapaw Nation has filed a civil court case demanding $7 million from the accused, along with damages, claiming fraud and unjust enrichment. Berrey, however, has responded with a libel lawsuit of his own.

Berrey has announced his intention to run for chairman again, despite his current predicament. The Quapaw Election Committee is yet to intervene in the matter and it remains unclear if they will attempt to bar him from participating in the election. In an interview with Oklahoma TV station KSN-16 in April, Berrey declared, “I just want to help out!” regarding his desire to be in office again. Whistleblower Complaint.

Whistleblower Complaint

The Quapaw Nation is prosperous due to their two casinos on their reservation in Oklahoma, the Quapaw Casino and the Downstream Casino Resort. Furthermore, they own a golf resort in Missouri, the Saracen Resort worth $350 million which opened in Pine Bluff in 2019. However, an audit has revealed a potential misappropriation of funds amounting to $34 million on “pay raises, bonuses, severance pay, and donations.”

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Updated: 5 August 2023
2 min to read

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