Some have forgotten the Jack Abramoff connection to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe gaining recognition and Glenn Marshall.
It's pretty pathetic that a wealthy investor expects the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to genuflect and collect his unenforceable debts for him.
It's even more pathetic that they genuflected, just as Senator Richard T. "Debt Collector" Moore did last year.
Investor calls Wampanoag on debt
By George Brennan
Herb Strather, the Detriot developer who first invested in the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe's casino efforts in 1999, is calling on the governor to help him recoup the millions he says he spent on the tribe.
In a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick, Strather says he raised in excess of $25 million from a wide variety of investors to help the tribe gain federal recognition and pursue a casino.
He also claims that the tribe has reneged on a handshake deal to make mortgage payments for Maushop Farm, a horse stable in Mashpee he purchased for $675,000 and planned to donate to the Wampanoag once a casino was built. He produced an email from a Bank of America employee stating the mortgage is in default because of slow payments. That bank employee declined to comment Wednesday.
"We are seeking a fairness inclusion in the gaming bill that will make the tribe pay their debts before they can get a compact," Strather wrote to the governor.
A compact is a deal between a tribe and a state that sets the ground rules for how an Indian casino will operate and what payments the state would receive in lieu of taxes.
Strather's letter asks the governor to include language that would require the tribe to disclose "any individual or entity which has made such investment to said tribe, its affiliates or predecessor applicants of the tribe for purposes of securing a gaming license" since 2005.
The Senate approved an amendment with similar wording during Monday's debate on the casino bill. Senators are expected to resume debate next week. There is no guarantee that language will make it into the final bill that goes to Patrick.
A spokeswoman for the governor's office said Strather's letter had been received, but declined comment on whether Patrick would consider his request to make debt repayments a condition in the compact. She said it was premature considering the Legislature is still debating the bill.
The tribe, through a spokeswoman, issued a brief statement: "Mr. Strather's claims are without merit."
It's been a tough week for the Mashpee Wampanoag. As happens every time the casino legislation gets debated, other state tribes have questioned the Mashpee tribe's ties to Southeastern Massachusetts. Now, Strather is opening old wounds with complaints about the tribe walking away from his investment.
In a phone interview, Strather said that as a casino investor not only is he losing his initial payments to the tribe, but also the return on that investment.
The Times reported last year that casino investors Sol Kerzner and Len Wolman cut a lucrative deal with the tribe in 2007 that would have paid the investors 6 percent of any casino take. Strather retained a 5 percent interest in that agreement.
But in 2010, the tribe wanted to break ties with Strather, Kerzner and Wolman and signed a deal with Kien Huat, a subsidiary of Genting Group, a Malaysian company that invests in casinos around the world — notably Foxwoods in Connecticut. The tribe renegotiated that if allowed to open a casino, they would reimburse Kernzer, Wolman and some of Strather's investors for their initial investment, although not pay them any of the casino profits, Strather said Wednesday.
Strather said his money was not included in that deal.
The tribe has declined to comment on its agreement to sever ties with initial investors, saying it is confidential.
"We funded this for nine years and for another group to come in and, after we got federal recognition, to take our investment and profits, that's very unfair," Strather said Wednesday. "I wonder how the commonwealth would like that."
Patricia Oakley, the tribe's former genealogist and a tribal elder, said Strather has the support of some tribe members.
"We don't want to be known as burning our bridges," Oakley said. "Tribal members are upset. They are upset about initial investors not getting paid and because there's no transparency with this leadership."
Much of Strather's negotiations, both for the casino and the farm, were with former tribal council Chairman Glenn Marshall. Marshall is serving a federal prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to taking some of Strather's cash and using it to make illegal campaign contributions and keeping it as a personal slush fund.
Marshall was forced to resign in 2007 after the Times reported he was a convicted rapist and that he had lied about his military record.
Still, Strather is harsher in his criticism of current tribal council Chairman Cedric Cromwell than he is of Marshall.
"I'm not here to distribute blame, there's plenty to go around. I am disappointed, but I still love the tribe," Strather said. "Glenn Marshall did more good for the tribe than bad. He negotiated a tremendous agreement with me, and I lived up to it. Through Glenn's efforts, the tribe received federal recognition."
Most of Strather's comments about Cromwell can't be printed. "No question, I feel terribly betrayed — not by Wampanoag tribe, but by the council that represented them," he said.
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