The tribe’s former chief financial officer, Martinez, who is accused of playing a key supporting role during Cypress’ tenure, echoed that view. He said the Miccosukee tribal council under Cypress’ leadership was fully aware of his spending, based on annual audits and regular meetings.
“We accounted for all of it,” said Martinez, who now works for the Grand Ronde Tribe in Oregon. “There was no complaint from any council members.”
The suit specifically accuses Martinez of having personal use of a tribe-issued American Express card approved by Cypress. Martinez, who worked for the Miccosukees for more than a decade, denied ever getting his own credit card, calling the allegation a “fabrication.”
“Everything that is said about me in this lawsuit is frivolous, baseless and reckless,” he said.
Cypress could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The tribe’s suit targeting him is the latest of his legal woes. In 2010, the IRS claimed that he owed the government almost $2.8 million in taxes and penalties on $6.65 million in unreported income from 2003-05.
About half of that unreported income came from cash advances on tribe-issued credit cards, according to IRS records obtained by The Miami Herald. Cypress used tribal funds at hotels, casinos, restaurants, sports venues and on spending sprees, the agency records show.
The IRS says Cypress’ income totaled $10.7 million for the three-year period. The IRS’ civil probe of Cypress grew out of an investigation, started in 2005, into the tribe’s distribution of tens of millions of dollars in cash every year from its gambling operations to Cypress and other Miccosukee members — without anyone reporting the money as taxable income, according to federal court records.
Cypress’ personal lawyers, Lewis and Michael Tein, also a former federal prosecutor named in the latest suit, did not return emails and calls for comment.
The suit accuses the law partners of being paid more than $10 million for “legal work” doled out by Cypress between 2005 and 2009 that was “unsubstantiated, fictitious, exorbitant, excessive and fabricated.” Cypress “secretly approved the payment of an hourly fee” for Lewis and his law firm of more than $2,000 — plus authorizing expenses for luxurious travel, restaurants and other “personal benefits,” the suit says.
The suit alleges that Lewis had a “conflict of interest” because he was advising the Miccosukee Tribe of tax matters in the IRS case at the same time he was representing Cypress’ legal problems.
The tribe’s suit also accuses Lewis of failing to disclose that he resigned from his Justice Department post as head of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys in Washington, D.C., for alleged “travel malfeasance” — before he was hired by the Miccosukees in 2005.
One of the most lucrative Miccosukee cases for Lewis and Tein has been their representation of two tribe members who admitted fault in a 1998 Tamiami Trail auto accident that killed a Miami-Dade woman.
A jury awarded the woman’s family $3.2 million in 2009, but the defendants have not paid the judgment, saying they don’t have the money.
The Florida Bar says it is “monitoring” an allegation that Lewis and Tein lied when they swore in a court proceeding that their clients paid them $2 million to $3 million in legal fees. Last August, Tein testified during a sanctions hearing that the tribe itself was not paying for their clients’ defense.
Miami lawyer Ramon M. Rodriguez, who represents the family of the deceased woman, later produced 61 checks showing that the tribe paid $3.1 million to the Lewis Tein law firm. The lawyers now face another sanctions hearing on the perjury allegation later this year.