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Quapaw judge releases ruling in embezzlement case

QUAPAW – A Quapaw Nation ruling involving two former tribal officials accused of embezzling $7 million in tribal funds was issued on Friday.  

In the criminal case against former Quapaw Chairman John Berrey and former Secretary-Treasurer Tamara Smiley-Reeves Chief Judge Diane Hammons’ order appointed Judge Gary Pitchlynn to oversee the huge amount of discovery issues.

Berrey faces 11 criminal counts in tribal court, while Smiley-Reeves faces seven counts, according to an amended complaint.

Judge Pitchlynn is permitted to set discovery hearings and set discovery deadlines, the order states.

On Thursday, Quapaw Nation prosecutor Doug Dry and defense attorneys Michon Hughes and Ryan Ray argued before Hammons the voluminous amount of discovery documents in the case was clogging up the case.

Both sides cited thousands of pages of emails.  

“I‘m saddened by the retaliatory and malicious nature of this case,” Hughes said. “I look forward to exonerating my client and illuminating for the member of this Honorable Sovereign Nation the truth behind this case.”

Is every new tribal leader going to charge their predecessor with a crime, she said.

Berrey denied any wrongdoing calling the accusations, “made up, and it is strictly political,” in a statement released in 2021.

Court documents said an audit showed between Dec. 2019 and May 2021 numerous inappropriate payments, gifts, and expenses using tribal gaming money, including a $1.5 million bonus was paid to Berrey in six $250,000 installments from Saracen Casino funds.

Berrey also had 11 unauthorized Downstream Casino bonuses totaling over $1.1 million and seven unauthorized bonuses from Saracen Casino totaling over $1.6 million, according to an affidavit.

Reeves had seven unauthorized Downstream Casino bonuses totaling $458,688.17 and seven unauthorized bonuses from Saracen Casino totaling almost $1 million, the affidavit states.

The investigation found “significant payments” made to Berrey’s spiritual advisor and relatives, the affidavit states.

The investigation allegedly uncovered questionable payments for a private Little Rock, Ark. Apartment, hunting trips, “questionable political contributions”, and casino funds were used for air travel, concert tickets, and sporting events, the affidavit states.

Each charge carries a possible 3-year prison sentence, according to court documents.

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