Oklahoma governor Eddie Hamilton has filed litigation on behalf of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, alleging that Florida businessman Fred “Prince Fred” Khalilian and his business partners at Universal Entertainment Group cheated the tribes out of $9.45 million for the Pokertribe.com gaming website, which was never fully functional.
“The transactions were marked by deceit, greed and utter disregard for the laws and economic well-being of the tribes,” the lawsuit claims, alleging that Khalilian and Universal Entertainment Group actually had no legal right to sell the Pokertribes.com software to the tribes in the 2014 deal.
The gaming software was allegedly owned by one of Khalilian’s former business partners, who later successfully sued him in state court in Georgia over the rights to the product, according to the lawsuit. However, that judgment was later overturned in Khalilian’s favour.
Khalilian has responded by claiming that the legal action is politically motivated, noting that Hamilton is up for re-election this year and faces several challengers.
The Cheyenne and Arapaho eventually folded on plans for Pokertribes.com and Universal Entertainment has since partnered with another Oklahoma tribe – the Iowas of Perkins – to launch a new online poker Pokertribe.com website under an Isle of Man licence.
Named with Khalilian in the Cheyenne and Arapaho lawsuit is Brian Foster, former head of gaming operations for the Cheyenne and Arapaho, who has also claimed that the legal action is politically motivated.
He told local reporters this week that he believes the Pokertribes.com project was a viable opportunity for the Cheyenne and Arapaho to dramatically increase gaming revenues.
“It’s unfortunate they didn’t stick with it. They would have done very well,” Foster said. “My position was to create business for the tribes and this was obviously a technological advancement.”
Other defendants named in the lawsuit are Universal Entertainment Group partners Isaias Almiras and Tatiana Vlasenko; Thomas Fox and Barbara Paukei, who previously managed the Cheyenne and Arapaho’s casinos in various capacities; attorney Richard Grellner, who helped negotiate the Pokertribes.com deal, and former Cheyenne and Arapaho Gov. Janice Prairie Chief-Boswell.
In a statement, Gov. Hamilton said the lawsuit was the culmination of a lengthy investigation into the tribes’ past business dealings, in which the tribes continue to work with law enforcement to seek criminal prosecution of several individuals named in the lawsuit.
“We continue to aggressively work with federal regulators and law enforcement authorities to bring about the indictment of those who have taken advantage of our tribes and misused our tribes’ gaming revenues,” Hamilton said.