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Bart Wayne Volen, who has residences in San Diego and Hawaii, yesterday (June 12) pleaded guilty to looting $17 million to $19 million from owners of the Thunder Valley Casino near Lincoln, according to the Sacramento Bee and Auburn Journal.

The usually boisterous Volen was somber as he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, money-laundering, and filing a false tax return.

Volen agreed to pay restitution of at least $17 million and to cooperate with federal prosecutors seeking the convictions of two other men charged with helping him defraud the United Auburn Indian Community in an overbilling scam tied to a construction project.

He could get up to nine years in prison but could get the sentence cut in half if he provides substantial assistance to prosecutors.

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Visduh June 13, 2014 @ 5:51 p.m.

Oh yes, he'll pay $17 million in restitution. And where will that come from? The usual scammer ends up with just about nothing in assets that anyone can find. Even with offshore banking havens surrendering left-and-right, it is still possible to hide ill-gotten gains. I'd surmise that his plea deal doesn't really involve much money paid back, but rather his ratting out his accomplices and boosting the conviction rate for the US attorney.


Don Bauder June 14, 2014 @ 7:53 a.m.

Visduh: Yes, I fear you are right. He won't pay $17 million. Few cozeners do. I disagree that offshore tax and secrecy havens are "surrendering left and right." The U.S. and other major nations are making modest headway with Switzerland, but most of the European and Caribbean havens -- and those elsewhere -- are not giving up. Best, Don Bauder


CaptainObvious June 14, 2014 @ 8:55 a.m.

Let him go, his crime occured in a Sovereign Nation. Let their legal system handle it. What goes around comes around.


Don Bauder June 14, 2014 @ 3:23 p.m.

Captain Obvious: Certainly two of the crimes, filing false tax statements and cheating the IRS, were offenses against the United States. Volen was hired by the tribe that owns Thunder Valley Casino and Resort to build four tribal buildings that were on the tribe's property.

However, I know of other cases in which Americans have been charged for crimes at Indian casinos or on a tribe's property. Best, Don Bauder


CaptainObvious June 14, 2014 @ 8:24 p.m.

Yes, Mr. Volen should pay a price for his crimes. Ironically, this is a case of a leech sucking blood from a lamprey. Neither is good for society, and the victim hides behind phony sovereign nation status while using American legal protection. Shut the casinos down or let anyone open one. Lets have real equality.


Don Bauder June 15, 2014 @ 7:47 a.m.

CaptainObvious: I am no fan of any casinos -- whoever owns them -- but I don't think the Indians' sovereign nation status is "phony." The U.S. granted such status, as the Indians were brutally mistreated. The Native Americans are taking advantage of that status. They lived in near-starvation for decades and decades, and are exploiting old American laws that now provide prosperity.

That is the one good thing about the Indian casinos (or other businesses within the sovereign nations): the Indians now have some measure of prosperity. Best, Don Bauder


Visduh June 16, 2014 @ 8:30 a.m.

My objection to this tribal sovereignty is that the operations use it when convenient to fend off regulation and laws, whenever it suits them. Such things as insuring the roads to the casinos are adequate, following wage-and-hour laws, employment laws, and dealing with off-reservation neighbors are things that are inconvenient, so the tribes invoke their sovereignty. Ahh, but they also contribute to elections. If they are sovereign, their money should be regarded the same way as money from foreign sources and/or governments. That is, they should be absolutely prohibited from any involvement in elections outside the reservations.


Don Bauder June 16, 2014 @ 2 p.m.

Visduh: I can't argue with that. Try suing an Indian casino over an accident on the premises, or being underpaid. Yes, they give to U.S. candidates and advertise heavily with U.S. companies, such as the Padres. I agree that it is a one-way street; they obey the laws they choose to obey.

But Americans are responsible for their sovereignty. Best, Don Bauder


jnojr June 17, 2014 @ 4:12 p.m.

In any case, the Indian reservations are NOT "sovereign nations". If they were, they could legalize drugs, have a drinking age of 18 (or 16, or 32, or whatever they wanted), sell machine guns over the counter, repeal the speed limit... but clearly they cannot.

I have to agree with CaptainObvious... it's an absolute sham to hand them special monopoly for a huge, multi-billion dollar industry. They should be free to build casinos, but so should anyone else.


Don Bauder June 17, 2014 @ 4:53 p.m.

jnojr: They call themselves sovereign nations but clearly they have some restrictions. Best, Don Bauder


CaptainObvious June 16, 2014 @ 9:50 p.m.

As deserving as the Indians are the "Californios", Mexican and Spanish settlers who were guaranteed continued land ownership and citizenship after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, but had their lands stolen during the Gold Rush. Why can't their descendants open casinos? The larger question is, are the descendants of people wronged over 150 years ago entitled to compensation and special status?


Don Bauder June 17, 2014 @ 6:01 a.m.

CaptainObvious: That's a perplexing question. Do we pay descendants of the Japanese-Americans who were herded into camps in World War II? Do we repay Native Americans for the brutal treatment they got? Should we compensate the descendants of Californios? We could debate these issues for years. Best, Don Bauder


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