Fifteen Men Charged In Violent Chukchansi Casino Tribal Dispute

Chukchansi Gold casinoThe men responsible for the raid on the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino last month now face criminal charges.

In October, 15 men stormed the casino with guns drawn, overpowered security and demanded that customers leave the premises. The attack incited mayhem inside the resort, causing up to 500 patrons and employees to flee the premises with personal possessions and chips still on the table.

The group was led by Tex McDonald, who reportedly ordered the raid in order to collect financial documents needed to complete an important audit which was due by the end of October. Now, all 15 men have been charged with various felonies, including kidnapping, false imprisonment, assault with a firearm and assault with a deadly weapon.

Bail set at $2.4 million

Due to the potential for violence between the McDonald faction and its rival, led by Reggie Lewis and Nancy Ayala, bail was set extremely high, with a $2.4 million bond ordered for McDonald himself. Police now consider tribal police chief John Oliveira to be the mastermind behind the raid and raised his bail from an initial $800,000 to $1.25 million in a hearing this week. Some of the men who were not involved in kidnapping, however, had their bail lowered from $800,000 to $500,000.

Violent past

McDonald has a history of violence and was convicted of two violent felonies in his youth. He later went on to work as a substance abuse counselor for 10 years, quitting his job to become a tribal chairman with the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians just this year.

McDonald says that his group’s actions were completely legal, and that they had even consulted tribal lawyers before carrying out the raid. “Tex is a good man, an honest man,” a friend of McDonald’s told the media. “I’m very disappointed, but I will stand behind these people because they are in the right.”

Tensions ran high at last week’s hearing, with members of the Lewis/Ayala faction voicing concern for their safety even at the courthouse. “I have to be fearful for myself and the lives of my crew,” said the group’s security chief Casey Cotroneo. “I do not think the public would be safe if they were free.”

As Reggie Lewis left the courthouse, supporters of McDonald chanted “Where’s the money?,” seemingly referring to disputed casino profits. No member of the Lewis/Ayala faction has been arrested for any of their actions during the raid.

The Chukchansi Gold Resort was the tribe’s biggest source of revenue, but has been ordered closed by a federal judge and Indian gaming officials. It remains unclear if the casino will reopen in the near future, or will have to be sold to pay back money owed to investors.