Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Tribe In The Media: Mohegan's Relationship With Businessman Questioned By Authorities

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The Mohegan Tribe's former relationship with Wisconsin businessman Dennis Troha continues to haunt the Tribe. Although the Tribe may come under closer scrutiny in their bid for a casino in Kansas due to the relationship with Troha, the article gives tribal members a more in-depth narrative on the history of the proposed Wisconsin casino project. The Kansas City Star newspaper posted the following article on their website yesterday, which questions the Tribe's judgement in partnering with Troha:


Majority partner in proposed Wyandotte County casino has ties to indicted developer
By Rick Alm
The Kansas City Star
August 20, 2008

The proposed Legends Sun hotel and casino in Wyandotte County.

Lucky Numbers | The Kansas City Star's gambling blog
Kansas casino authorities have some deep vetting to do.

The Connecticut-based Mohegan Tribe, majority partner in the proposed Legends Sun casino in Wyandotte County, has been closely tied to a would-be Wisconsin casino developer who pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance law violations.

The ill-fated Wisconsin casino project is the same one that several years ago spawned disciplinary action and huge fines in Missouri and other jurisdictions against the now-defunct Argosy Gaming Co.

For the sake of Kansas taxpayers, Kansas gaming regulators must err on the side of extreme caution and scrutinize every business relationship of every casino applicant — starting with the Mohegan and Dennis M. Troha.

A former wheeler-dealer in the Wisconsin trucking industry, Troha last year admitted his role in funneling illegal campaign donations to politicians who were in positions to assist his plan to build a tribal casino in Kenosha, Wis.

The casino would have been owned by Wisconsin’s Menominee Tribe and operated by the Mohegan Tribe, which owns and operates Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, one of the largest gambling establishments in the world.

Under the original federal charges brought in 2007, Troha faced up to 25 years in prison. He agreed to cooperate with authorities and, in a plea bargain, admitted to two misdemeanors that netted him a sentence of six months’ probation.

The still-unfolding scandal has already dragged down one Wisconsin pol, and more charges may be in the offing.

The Menominee’s Kenosha casino project is the same one that in 2002 led to sanctions in Missouri and other jurisdictions against then-Illinois-based Argosy, which at the time owned and operated the Argosy Casino in Riverside.

Argosy had agreed to lend up to $40 million to an earlier Troha-linked enterprise called Nii-Jii Entertainment LLC in exchange for rights to operate the Kenosha casino.

But Nii-Jii collapsed in 2001 amid news accounts linking its founder, former congressman Morgan Murphy Jr .of Illinois, to a Chicago labor leader alleged to have ties to organized crime.

If the casino had come to fruition, some well-connected consulting firms were reportedly in line for $46 million in “fees” from Nii-Jii.

Troha was a Nii-Jii board member through his holdings in groups that invested in Nii-Jii.

In 2002 the Missouri Gaming Commission alleged a due diligence failure on Argosy’s part to discover Murphy’s unsavory ties and disassociate itself from Nii-Jii. Argosy later bargained down its $250,000 Missouri fine to $200,000.

Illinois and Indiana casino regulators brought similar charges and fines totaling $125,000.

Although the Nii-Jii partnership collapsed under regulatory scrutiny, Troha soldiered on in Kenosha. He formed Kenesah Gaming Development LLC, which a federal grand jury alleged as early as 2002 was engaging in actions that led to his indictment five years later.

By 2003, Troha and his Kenesah group had replaced Argosy with a deal that gave the Mohegan the rights to operate the Kenosha casino.

When Troha was indicted in March last year, the tribe severed the relationship and bought out his interest in the Kenosha deal.

“We had no belief or evidence that Dennis was a bad guy,” said Mitchell G. Etess, Mohegan Sun president and chief executive, in an interview last week during a break in casino hearings before the Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board.

Perhaps that is so. But for years Troha’s Nii-Jii and Kenesah endeavors had been leaving very large, very public and sometimes very ugly footprints all over Wisconsin’s casino gambling landscape.

A prudent casino company might have sensed a train wreck and steered clear of Troha.

The Mohegan did not. They embraced him right up to the moment a federal grand jury indicted him.

Source: http://www.kansascity.com/business/story/754448.html

Kansas taxpayers deserve to know with whom else this tribal gambling enterprise is doing business.