QUAPAW, Okla. – Thousands of pages of emails were the center of Thursday’s court hearing involving two former Quapaw Tribal officials accused of embezzling $7 million in tribal funds.
A criminal lawsuit was filed in Quapaw Nation Tribal Court in 2021 against former Quapaw Chairman John Berrey and former Secretary-Treasurer Tamara Smiley-Reeves. Berrey faces 11 criminal counts in tribal court, while Smiley-Reeves faces seven counts, according to an amended complaint.
Quapaw Nation prosecutor Doug Dry and defense attorneys Michon Hughes and Ryan Ray argued before Chief Judge Diane Hammons about the voluminous amount of discovery documents in the case.
Both sides cited “IT” Information Technology issues regarding thousands of pages of emails and other digital information data.
Hughes asked the court to appoint an IT specialist.
“The email correspondence goes back 10 years,” Hughes said. “We are requesting a speedy trial.”
Hughes also requested information on one of the Tribe’s witnesses which is subject to the U.S. Supreme Court Giglio ruling. Giglio refers to a 1972 Supreme Court ruling where a law enforcement officer’s credibility is questioned.
Judge Hammons said she would release an order where a trial date would be set and discovery issues would be resolved.
Dry and Hughes said they expect the order in a day or so.
Berrey denied any wrongdoing calling the accusations, “made up, and it is strictly political,” in a statement released in 2021.
Smiley-Reeves also denied any wrongdoing, said Hughes, her attorney.
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.