The Shinnecock Gaming Authority's trailer burned down on the Shinnecock Reservation in Southampton, either late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.
When the Southampton Fire Department was dispatched to the scene at about 12:30 a.m., the trailer, located near the community center, was "fully engulfed" in flames, Fire Chief Dennis Roy told the Southhampton Patch. "It had self ventilated already and fire was pouring out the back windows," he said. No injuries were reported.
The fire marshall is still investigating the cause. Roy noted that the fire appears to have started on the backside corner of the trailer, which Roy described as a "double-wide" trailer with several office spaces and a conference room.
In May, FBI agents raided the gaming authority's trailer and the home of a tribal member, Karen Crippen-Hunter, treasurer of the Shinnecock gaming authority, as part of a criminal investigation. Former Shinnecock Trustees Lance Gumbs and Gordell Wright, who were defeated in elections in early April, had filed a request for investgation with the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) in March, alleging the tribe's casino backers, Gateway Casino Resorts, was interfering with tribal government operations and elections, and attempting to “defraud” the tribe of gaming and other economic development revenues.
Since gaining federal recognition in October 2010, the Shinnecock Indian Nation has been trying to get its gaming plans off the ground. The gaming authority is comprised of five tribe members who have handled contract negotiations with Gateway Resort Casinos. Gateway's principals are gambling czar Mike Malik, and Marion Illitch, who with her husband owns the Detroit Tigers, the Detroit Red Wings and Little Caesar's national pizza chain. Malik has been involved in some controversial gaming projects with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, the Bay Mills Indian Community, the Big Lagoon Rancheria of Indians, and the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeño Mission Indians. (On March 7, prior to going to the NIGC, Gumbs and Wright had filed a request with the elected Tribal Council for an investigation into an alleged secret deal that former Trustees Randy King, Fred Bess and Gerrod Smith had made with Malik.)
The gaming trailer fire occurred when the three Shinnecock trustees—Chairman Daniel Collins, Sr.; D. Taobi Silva; and Brad Smith—were attending the United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc. (USET) 2013 Board of Directors Annual Meeting and Business Expo, October 28-31, at the homelands of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Cherokee, North Carolina.
Collins, Sr., a former police chief at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, is the brother of Donna Collins Smith, the chair of the tribal gaming authority, and brother-in-law of her husband, Gerrod Smith, the tribe’s chief financial officer.