|Seminole tribe Chairman, James Billie took the stand on Monday in the case against three men accused of embezzling the tribes money. Despite not being called until two weeks into the case his testimony significantly helped clear all three men.|
US District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas ruled in favour of the three men, acquitting them all. The case highlighted the tremendous amounts of cash generated by the tribe’s casino empire and the loose business methods of those who controlled it.
Billie testified that he instructed both Tim Cox, the tribe’s former business manager, and Dan Wisher, the tribe’s former computer consultant, to start Internet gambling operation Virtual Data in Belize. Billie even stated that he had approved backdated invoices and corresponding cheques. Without informing any of the rest of the Seminole’s governing council $2.7 million of the tribe’s money was used in the venture.
Together with Wisher’s son-in-law, Michael Crumpton, all three men are accused of channelling money for their own use through Virtual Data and writing out fake invoices.
Billie insisted that he wanted the tribe to benefit from the potential profit to be made from Internet gambling before the U.S. Senate could enforce any prohibition or regulatory laws. Moving fast enough he believed as much as $741 million could be made for the Seminole tribe.
Fearing opposition from other tribe members that would delay or even prevent the venture Billie kept the whole enterprise under wraps for as long as he could: 'It was better to go under disguise to set the whole program up, to keep it quiet, not a secret.'