The tribe has a long history of fighting the federal government over major issues, from income taxes to the cleanup of the Everglades.
But since the ouster of Miccosukee Chairman Billy Cypress in late 2009, the tribe has filed one lawsuit after another against the former leader and his inner circle of advisors, including two former U.S. attorneys in Miami who represented the Miccosukees.
In a federal suit filed in July, the tribe accused Cypress of stealing $26 million from the Miccosukees to spend on numerous gambling trips, shopping sprees, real-estate investments and luxury cars.
The suit claims Cypress conspired with two former Miccosukee financial officers, along with former U.S. attorneys Dexter Lehtinen and Guy Lewis and a Miami brokerage firm, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, to keep the tribe in the dark about his alleged “criminal enterprise.”
(The tribe also has sued Lehtinen and Lewis in separate legal malpractice cases.)
The federal racketeering suit claims the tribe did not “discover this massive web of financial theft, embezzlement and fraud until 2010,” when Colley Billie replaced Cypress as the Miccosukee chairman.
The suit details a total of $11.5 million in ATM withdrawals by Cypress at casinos in Las Vegas and elsewhere, along with an additional $4 million in American Express charges for jewelry, restaurants and other expenses, between 2006 and 2009. Cypress also acquired nearly a dozen properties and residences, from Miami-Dade to Panama City Beach, worth a total of $4 million.
The tribe’s suit targeting Cypress, who was personally represented by Lewis and law partner Michael Tein, is the latest in the former chairman’s legal woes.
In 2010, the IRS claimed that Cypress personally owed the government almost $2.8 million in taxes and penalties on $6.65 million in unreported income during 2003-05.