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FEATURE Playing the House Timo, the Casino Politico, Craps Out BY ANDREW WHEAT IIIhe most striking aspect of the December indictment of then-Rep. Timoteo Garza, his parents, and three Kickapoo leaders for allegedly conspiring to steal $900,000 in tribal funds is the political nature of the alleged crimes. Human avarice is the stock and trade of criminal indictments. Yet this indictment suggests thatto feed their greedthe Garzas and Kickapoo leaders conspired to expand their monopoly over Texas’ only legal casino. Along the way, the casino house bought a seat in the Texas House and made a play for the powers of Congress. Thanks to the casino, once-poor tribal leaders were awash in enough money to purchase political power at every level of government. Easy money is the hothouse of corruption. Prosecutors allege that the defendants treated the Kickapoo tribe’s money as if it were their own, spending it on themselves and to purchase political power. The federal grand jury made these charges at an interesting timeas some Texas politicians promote gambling as a painless source of educational revenue. All photos courtesy Texas House Photography Department Count one of the grand jury’s 19-count indictment charges the defendants with stealing $385,533 from the tribe in 34 “overt acts” of theft from 1998 through June 2004. The defendants allegedly blew less than 25 percent of this money on garden-variety stuff such as furniture, vehicles, and cash for themselves. In one personal expenditure, the casino allegedly paid false payroll checks to the “co-habitant” of tribal chair Most of these allegedly criminal expenditures were political. Timoteo Garza and his father allegedly spent at least $146,739 of the tribe’s money on their own political campaigns. Prosecutors also say that the defendants improperly diverted more than $150,000 in other Kickapoo funds to influence local, state, and federal politicians from Eagle Pass to Washington, D.C. A key hurdle for prosecutors in trial will be to demonstrate that the defendants spent tribal money without obtaining proper approval from the tribal council. This point was made by prominent Houston attorney Richard “Racehorse” Haynes, who is defending Timoteo’s father, Isidro Garza, Jr. 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER FEBRUARY 4, 2005