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Tribe says FBI probe focused on individuals

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: The Day

Published May 04. 2012 4:00AM   Updated May 04. 2012 2:10PM
Mashantuckets assure members government, casino not targeted

Mashantucket Pequot tribal officials are seeking to assure tribal members that an ongoing FBI investigation on the reservation targets individuals and not the tribe itself.

"We need to make it very clear that neither the Tribe itself nor its gaming and government enterprises are targets of the inquiry," the tribal council says in an email obtained by The Day.

The email refers to the newspaper's report this week that former tribal Chairman Michael Thomas, his brother - council Treasurer Steven Thomas - and tribal member Stewart Sebastian have been notified that they are targets of an FBI probe of tribal finances. The information came from sources with knowledge of tribal affairs.

Michael Thomas, reached by phone since the report appeared, declined to comment. Attempts to reach Steven Thomas and Sebastian have been unsuccessful.

Tribal officials have not responded to requests for comment.

In the email, which begins "Dear Family," the council acknowledges that it "is aware of a federal inquiry into the alleged activities of several individual Tribal Members."

The council, which oversees the management of Foxwoods Resort Casino, assures tribal members that the tribe's government and business entities will continue to operate without interruption. It goes on to say:

"The Council has been of one mind on this issue: If actions are to be taken as a result of the conclusions reached through the inquiry, we will act accordingly. While the federal inquiry is ongoing, we aren't making judgments and we won't act prematurely."

The council says it has fully cooperated with the investigation and will continue to do so. It advises tribal members to refer media inquiries to the tribe's public relations department.

Several weeks ago, the tribe's police chief, Daniel Collins Sr., issued a notice to tribal members regarding the presence of reporters on the reservation. It came after tribal police escorted an Associated Press reporter off the reservation.

The reporter, Michael Melia, described the incident in an interview Thursday.

He said that on a day in early March, he drove onto the reservation and began going door to door, asking to speak to residents. After interviewing one woman for close to a half-hour, he walked down the driveway to his car, which he said was surrounded by several police cars and five officers, including the chief.

"I walked to my car, the chief introduced himself and asked who I was," Melia said. "I told him I was a reporter and he asked for my card and what I was working on.

"So you're all through now?" Melia said the chief asked. "I said, 'Are you asking me to leave?' He said yes, and I got in my car and drove off the reservation."

A police car followed him until he was through the reservation's gates, Melia said.

Collins' notice to tribal members requests that they contact the tribe's public relations department if they see "any news reporters or vehicles" and tribal police "for otherwise suspicious persons or vehicles on the reservation."

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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