MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miccosukee Tribe never fought a war, until now, and the battleground is in the courtroom. It’s a civil war, and it’s opponent is former chief and tribal Chairman Billy Cypress, who stands accused by the tribe of stealing $26 million.
CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald reports the federal lawsuit accuses the former Chief of living the life of potentate using the tribe’s money; spending it on gambling trips, real estate investments, luxury cars, and shopping sprees.
The suit also claims that the former tribal chair, who was voted out in 2009, conspired with tribal attorneys including two former US attorneys and others to operate a criminal enterprise.
“Consequently, the Miccosukee Tribe and the Miccosukee people were unable to discover this massive web of financial theft, embezzlement and fraud until 2010,” the federal racketeering suit claims.
The lawsuit was filed in US District Court in South Florida last weekend.
The lawsuit comes as the tribe is engaged with an ongoing battle with the government and the Internal Revenue Service over money the feds say is owed on it’s gambling operations, headquartered at a casino at Krome Avenue and Tamiami Trail.
The lawsuit blows open some of the closely held financial secrets of the trime, while virtually hanging former chief Cyprus out to dry.
The lawsuit claims Cypress was a serial “thief” provided “protection” by a coterie of exorbitantly paid professionals who never alerted other tribal members about his “misappropriations.”
Also named in the lawsuit is Dexter Lehtinen, a long time tribal attorney and former US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Guy Lewis, another attorney who also held the US Attorney position.
Lehtinen, husband of Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, has been sued not only in this racketeering case but also in an earlier Miccosukee suit alleging legal malpractice.