|State police Master Sgt. John Drumm say he was forced out of investigating casino corruption after pressure from the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe extended all the way to Gov. John Rowland.|
Within a year's time on the beat at Foxwoods Resort Casino, Connecticut, where up to 60,000 free-wheeling gamblers party around the clock every day, Drumm says, he was immersed in investigating enough alleged wrongdoing to pack a noir thriller -- prostitution, narcotics abuse, poker chip counterfeiting, illegal kickbacks, sexual assault coverup and lurking mobsters.
But after less than 18 months on the job, Drumm and another detective, Richard Perron, were abruptly transferred in 1996 by top police brass in a case that attracted statewide headlines.
Now, in a little-noticed case before the small Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court, Drumm and Perron are suing the tribe, saying the gaming enterprise is more worried about adverse publicity than working with police investigators and upholding the law.
'It's despicable,' Mashantucket lawyer Jackson King said of the charges in the lawsuit. 'We have as much interest as the state of Connecticut in making sure there are no corrupt influences here. There is no organized crime. There is no stealing. We are all in the same boat.'
Drumm, a highly decorated state police officer who is now the executive officer in the Westbrook barracks, says he is only out to clear his name. A former selectman in East Haddam, he is known for his penchant for speaking up. In 1993, he successfully sued in federal court after he was passed over for promotion.
With the state growing more dependent on slot machine revenue from Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun -- and more American Indian casinos in the pipeline, including a possible one in Bridgeport -- Drumm and his lawyers say their case is a critical test of whether a federally recognized tribe and its prosperous casino can operate above the law.
'Who is running the show, them or us?' said John Williams, a New Haven civil rights lawyer representing Drumm and Perron, who is a state police detective. 'If they were allowed to get away with avoiding (a lawsuit) for something like this, then they would be above the law. This is about going off the reservation and going into the governor's office and lobbying to hurt somebody.'
Two weeks ago, a tribal judge handed down a ruling rejecting Drumm and Perron's suit, which charges that the tribe and casino executives libeled and targeted them for prosecution. Williams said Drumm and Perron will appeal in tribal court and seek to have the case moved back to state Superior Court.
In stacks of court documents, Drumm and Perron offer the sort of behind-the-scenes details rarely revealed about Connecticut's casinos.
In one case, the suit says, police were watching a known felon, a burglar from Old Lyme, who was a regular at the casino. With no apparent means of income, he was rapidly accumulating casino 'comp points,' which are awarded to patrons for each dollar spent and can be used to purchase meals and drinks.
Working with informants from casino staff, police determined he was running up thousands of points and tried to investigate further. When they went to the tribe's gaming commission, state police were told the man had no points in his account. Eventually, police investigators realized they should never ask for information from the gaming commission unless they already knew the answer, Drumm says in his suit.
'We would get information on a crime,' Drumm said in testimony, 'and we would then go and ask (the tribal gaming officials) for the information to build the state's case and we would get the information back and it would be washed . . . that's the phrase they use -- washed, cleansed.'
In another instance, Drumm describes a case where a casino entertainer allegedly committed a sexual assault in a hotel room. By the time police investigators arrived, management had the room cleaned, including changing the sheets on the bed.
Drumm said investigations were thwarted by the tribe's gaming commission to avoid anything that could lead to 'an embarrassment to the casino operation.'
In court documents, Drumm and Perron describe relations between the gaming commission and the police as 'icy at best and downright dysfunctional at worst.'
King, the Mashantuckets' lawyer, said the tribe has never stood in the way of police doing their job.
'The compact provides that the state police have a presence in the casino. It gives them unfettered access,' King said. 'They have an absolute right. They don't have to knock on the door.'