Ex-developer accused of illegal payments

Muskogee, Oklahoma (AP) 9-07

A former casino developer pleaded guilty September 19th to a federal conspiracy charge of making illegal payments to at least three officials of the Seminole Nation to let him run tribal casinos.

Ivy K. Ong, 65, of El Paso, Texas, also pleaded guilty to failing to pay about $200,000 in federal taxes.

Each of the two counts is punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.

Ong also agreed to forfeit his interest in a gated-community home in Choctaw and a 15-acre horse farm in Lexington, Ky., which were purchased with proceeds of his criminal activities. The property is estimated to be worth more than $1 million.

Ong was accused of paying $44,100 to one tribal official between October 2000 and March 2004.

He was accused of paying $7,190 in January 2002 to get a second tribal official’s house out of foreclosure.

He was accused of paying $8,607 in April 2001 to renovate a third official’s home.

Federal prosecutors did not identify the tribal officials by name and the tribal officials apparently have not been charged.

Ong made the payments “to curry favor and deliver rewards to those officials,” prosecutors alleged.

Ong’s attorney said the payments are considered illegal gratuities, not bribes under federal law.

The Seminole Nation cut its ties with Ong after he came under federal investigation.

The tribe had to shut down its casinos in 2003 until tribal officials were able to resolve federal regulators’ concerns, mostly about illegal gaming machines.

Information from:
The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com