The state on Monday raided three illegal casinos in Robeson County and arrested at least 26 people on charges of gambling, manufacturing controlled substances, running an illegal police force and money laundering. N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement agents said they confiscated vehicles, cash, marijuana, firearms and more than 200 gaming machines.
The state said the operations were run by a group called the Tuscarora Indian Nation, led by Kendall Locklear, 57, who was among those arrested and who claimed the tribe is a sovereign nation.
Here are some facts related to the year-long investigation and the charges that came from it:
▪ The casinos were small, one-story buildings where patrons could play on dozens of machines 24 hours a day. The casinos operated openly, were prominently marked and locally advertised.
▪ North Carolina laws prohibit most gaming and gambling except what is allowed under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. In accordance with that law, the state has a contract with the federally recognized Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation to operate casinos on Indian lands. The casinos, one in Cherokee and a smaller one near Murphy, are major local employers and have generated millions of dollars annually for the tribe and its individual members. The casinos have been credited with helping to bring many families in the region out of poverty.
▪ The state’s largest Indian tribe is the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, most of whose members are from Robeson County, consistently one of the three poorest counties in the state. The Lumbee Tribe has state recognition but only partial federal recognition — denying them most federal benefits — and is not allowed to operate casinos or other gaming operations in North Carolina.
▪ The Tuscarora are a federally recognized tribe in New York with ancestral roots in North and South Carolina. Since the 1970s, several groups identifying as Tuscarora Indians have organized in North Carolina, but none has been recognized by the federal government or is among the eight tribes recognized by the state. North Carolina Tuscarora continue to fight for legal recognition.
▪ Without recognition, the Tuscarora tribe cannot legally operate gaming or gambling operations in North Carolina.
▪ Investigators with N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement said the casino in Pembroke was operated by Timothy Bryan Jacobs, 50, who was convicted on state kidnapping charges in the 1988 armed takeover of The Robesonian newspaper in Lumberton. Jacobs’ co-defendant in the case was Eddie Hatcher, who also was convicted and sentenced to prison for the takeover, during which newspaper employees were held hostage for 10 hours. Hatcher and Jacobs agreed to release the hostages if then-Gov. James G. Martin would agree to order an investigation of their claims of local government corruption, including within the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office. All hostages were released unharmed.
▪ Jacobs was sentenced to six years in prison on the kidnapping charges and was released in 1992. Since then, he has advocated for the return to Tuscarora ownership of a piece of land in Greene County where more than 900 tribal members living in Fort Nooherooka were massacred in 1713, signaling the end of the Tuscarora War, a Native American uprising against European colonization.
▪ Hatcher had been released on the kidnapping charges but went back to prison after being convicted of murder. He died in prison.