QUAPAW, Okla. – New criminal charges are filed against several former Quapaw Nation leaders, accusing them of taking unauthorized bonuses worth millions of dollars.
Jack Brill, II, 54, a Neosho, Missouri-based attorney and former Downstream Casino Resort attorney, is accused of orchestrating the payment of $2.343 million to former Quapaw Nation officials, John Berrey, Merlin “Kent” Jones, Jr., Tamara Smiley-Reeves, Janet Cummings and himself in unauthorized checks, according to a criminal complaint filed in Quapaw Nation Court on June 1st.
One of those mentioned in the complaint, Merlin Jones, Jr., died on April 7, 2021.
Brill is charged with embezzlement, attempted embezzlement, conspiracy to commit embezzlement, and two counts of offense by an officer.
“After careful examination of the evidence, documents and statements gathered by Innovation Gaming Solutions (IGS) from the Quapaw Nation and its commercial subsidiaries, my office, without input from any elected official or unelected official of the Quapaw Nation, determined that the elements exist to warrant criminal charges in these cases,” said Quapaw Nation Special Prosecutor Doug Dry in a prepared statement.
Quapaw Nation authorities say Brill stole money that belonged to the Saracen Casino Resort and Q Store by claiming the funds were a bonus. He is also accused of receiving money in compensation above the rate set by the tribe’s Business Committee, according to court documents.
Brill is a licensed attorney and according to the Missouri Bar Association, he is in good standing. We reached out to him for comment, but the telephone number for his Neosho law office was no longer in service. In 2021 Brill’s licensed was suspended for non-payment of taxes. It was reinstated last year.
Brill is also accused of making false statements at a July 4, 2019, General Council Meeting to the Quapaw Nation General Council about how the DDA compensation is established, court documents state.
George “Ranny” McWatters, Jr., 78, of Quapaw and Marilyn J. Rogers, 67, of Welch are both charged with two counts of abuse of office.
McWatters and Rogers are former members of the Quapaw Tribal Business Committee and the Downstream Development Authority. According to the criminal complaints filed against the two, they are accused of receiving severance pay not approved by the tribe’s Business Committee. Both were also accused of receiving extra compensation above the compensation rate set by the tribe’s Business Committee.
In addition to the severance pay, the two are charged with receiving hourly wages more than double the amount approved by the business committee.
Former elected officials Berrey and Reeves were charged civilly and criminally in Quapaw Nation Tribal Court in 2021 with a laundry list of alleged financial wrongdoing ranging from embezzlement, conspiracy, abuse of office, and official unlawful action.
They are accused of misappropriating more than $7 million of tribal money, according to the complaints.
Berrey and Reeves deny any wrongdoing, and online records show no trial date has been set.
The charges against Brill, McWatters, and Rogers were filed after Innovative Gaming Solutions launched an internal audit and investigation in June 2020, into allegations of improper bonuses being paid to tribal leaders and casino executives. The audit officially began looking at records on July 29, 2020, days after incumbents Berrey and Reeves lost their bids for reelection.
The Downstream Development Authority, also known as the DDA, oversees the Downstream Casino Resort.
Some of the audit’s findings included:
- Proper authorization was never recorded for the $1 million bonus to Jones.
- Proper authorization was never recorded for the $1.5 million bonus to Berrey.
- The DDA authorized no Executive Severance plan resolution.
- No resolution was authorized for the issuance of “success fee” payments or “success fee” bonuses to any member of the DDA, Saracen Development Authority, Downstream Casino Resort, or Saracen Casino Resort.
- No records or resolutions were found in the Business Committee meeting minutes for merit increases, bonuses or benefit increases for the DDA since Dec. 2009.
- The casino accounting department and the tribal accounting department verified that no formal DDA budget could be found as ever being submitted to the Business Committee.
- Tena Smith deliberately did not put DDA member pay in the meeting minutes on purpose and stated to Brill she intentionally kept the minutes vague.
- No records of Business Committee votes could be found approving raises.
Alleged Unauthorized Payments
|George McWatters, Jr.||Jan. 1, 2018 – Aug. 23, 2019||Overcompensation|
Downstream Casino Resort
|George McWatters, Jr.||Aug. 1, 2018 – Sept. 31 [sic] 2019||Downstream Casino Resort|
|Marilyn Rogers||Jan.1 2019 to Aug. 15, 2019||Overcompensation|
Downstream Casino Resort
|Jack Brill||May 30, 2019 – Nov. 17, 2020||Overcompensation|
Downstream Casino Resort
|Marilyn Rogers||Aug. 1, 2019- Sept. 31 [sic] 2019||Downstream Casino Resort|
|Jack Brill||Nov. 1, 2019 – Dec. 3, 2019||Saracen Casino Bonus||$256,349|
|Merlin “Kent” Jones||Dec. 31, 2019 to May 1, 2020||Saracen Casino Bonus||$1 Million|
|John Berrey**||Dec. 31, 2019 to May 1, 2020||Saracen Casino Bonus||$1.5 Million|
|Jack Brill||March 6, 2020 – July 2, 2020||Saracen Casino Resort and Q Store Bonus||$513,000*|
|John Berrey**||7/27/2020||Saracen Casino Resort|
|Jack Brill||7/27/2020||Saracen Supplemental Bonus||$128,250|
|Tamara Reeves**||7/27/2020||Saracen Supplemental Bonus||$ 72,631|
|Tamara Reeves**||7/27/2020||Saracen Casino Resort|
|Merlin Jones||7/27/2020||Saracen Casino Resort|
|Janet Cummings***||7/27/2020||PTO – Cash In – 574.76 Hours||$ 52,572|
|John Berrey**||7/27/2020||PTO – Cash In – 214.65 Hours||$ 33,290|
|John Berrey**||7/27/2020||Downstream Casino Resort|
|Tamara Reeves**||7/27/2020||PTO – Cash In – 306.07 Hours||$ 25,644|
|Tamara Reeves**||7/27/2020||Downstream Casino Resort|
|Merlin K. Jones, Jr.||7/27/2020||PTO – Cash In – 131.73 Hours||$11,521|
|Merlin K. Jones, Jr.||7/27/2020||Downstream Casino Resort|
* Quapaw Nation placed a stop payment on two checks totaling $145,878.54 written to Brill.
**Berrey and Reeves charged with criminal charges.
***Cummings, who was named in a civil suit, has settled the civil complaint.
Who Are The Players
- Merlin Kent Jones – Former Downstream Casino and Resort CFO
- Jack Brill – Former Downstream Casino Resort Attorney
- John Berrey- Former Quapaw Nation Chairman
- Tamara Reeves – Former Quapaw Nation Secretary/Treasurer
- Janet Cummings – Former Downstream Casino and Resort General Manager
- George McWatters, Jr. – Former Business Committee and DDA member
- Tina Smith – Former DDA Executive Secretary
- Marilyn Rogers – Former Business Committee and DDA member