Posted on: October 8, 2020, 12:09h.
Last updated on: October 7, 2020, 05:52h.
A New Jersey man will spend 41 months in federal prison for stealing nearly $150,000 from a tribal casino in North Dakota.
Mark A. Johnson, 60, of Mays Landing in Atlantic County, was sentenced this week by District Judge Charles Kornmann. The federal judge ordered Johnson, who pleaded guilty to Wire Fraud, to spend nearly three and a half years behind bars, then undergo supervised release for three years.
The conviction stems from what prosecutors say was theft that occurred between March and July of 2014. During that time, Johnson presented the Dakota Nation Gaming Enterprise (DNGE) with a proposal to provide refurbished lawn equipment to the tribe for its operations at Dakota Magic Casino in North Dakota.
Johnson won the bid, and Dakota Magic Casino mailed him a check for $149,600 payable to his company, Atlantic Power & Equipment, LLC. Johnson cashed the check and used the funds, but never came through on his end of the deal with the tribe.
Dakota Magic Casino never received any lawn equipment, nor did Johnson return the money. The case was prosecuted by the FBI, and Johnson was apprehended by the US Marshals Service. Johnson has been ordered to pay $149,600 in restitution to the tribe.
It’s not the first time Johnson has been tangled up with the law. In 2018, prosecutors in New Jersey charged him with stealing $22,000 in pension checks from a deceased police officer. Johnson was living in the officer’s home at the time and deposited the money into his own account.
Plenty of Upkeep
Dakota Magic Casino is located on the North Dakota and South Dakota border, roughly an hour south of Fargo.
The casino comes with 700 slot machines, as well as blackjack and craps tables. The resort has a 110-room hotel, four restaurants, convention space, and a 27-hole golf course. Combined, the Dakota Magic Casino property measures nearly 300 acres.
Johnson told the tribe he would deliver the lawn equipment within four to six weeks after the date of the order. The equipment never arrived.
Dakota Magic Casino and DNGE are owned by the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate (SWO) of the Lake Traverse Reservation. The tribe claims to have nearly 14,000 members. Along with Dakota Magic, the SWO tribe owns and operates Dakota Sioux in Watertown, South Dakota.
Tribal casinos have been targeted recently by people with illicit plans.
In June, a Florida man pleaded guilty to falsely representing the Village People music act and stealing $12,500 from The Mill Casino in North Bend, Oregon. The Coquille Indian Tribe paid Howard Harlib, 67, the booking fee, only to later realize that he had no relationship with the concert act. Harlib was sentenced to three years of supervised release.
In July, a federal judge ordered another Florida man to spend four years in prison for stealing more than $5 million from the Miccosukee Resort in West Miami-Dade. Lester Lavin, 41, was a video gaming machine technician and supervisor at the tribal casino, and conspired with three others to create bogus winning vouchers.
Most recently, the Cache Creek Casino Resort in Northern California confirmed it was the target of a cyber attack. The property owned by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation has been closed since September 20.