RIVERTON — Originally accused of defamation and interference with livelihood, which are civil complaints, the Northern Arapaho Tribe’s attorney now is being sued on claims of racketeering and fraud.
The new counts, if confirmed by evidence and the court, could have criminal implications under United States Code Title 18.
Keith Harper began serving the tribe as an attorney in 2019, through Atlanta-based law firm Kilpatrick, Townsend and Stockton.
In 2020, Harper went to work for Jenner and Block, but still serves the Northern Arapaho Business Council through his new firm. KTS replaced the tribe’s 25-year law firm, Lander-based Baldwin, Crocker and Rudd.
In July and August of 2019, ahead of an Aug. 12 Northern Arapaho General Council meeting, Harper communicated with the press and the public about BCR, claiming the law firm had withheld tribal documents and $1 million.
Wyoming District Court Judge Thomas Campbell later ruled that the claim that BCR withheld money “could not have been true” at the time. The location of the roughly $1 million has not been disclosed by the NABC. BCR filed suit in August of 2020 calling Harper’s actions defamation.
Then, on May 21, the Lander law firm filed a new complaint against Harper and his former firm, KTS, claiming that they defrauded the Northern Arapaho people and the public, to pull the tribe and its monetary interests away from BCR and toward themselves.
The Arapaho-owned Wind River Casino near Riverton is the only casino in the nation operating the full gamut of Class III gaming without a state compact.
BCR’s newest accusation claims that the new attorneys started a solicitation campaign as early as autumn 2017 to get former NABC chairman Lee Spoonhunter to switch legal counsel and to change casino management.
“This campaign included a concerted effort to focus on… Spoonhunter and a select group of other NABC members, who (sic) Defendant KTS thought could be easily manipulated,” according to the suit.
The suit lists several dinners and meetings, including in Las Vegas and Denver, at which KTS attorneys are reported to have courted NABC members.
In the August 2019 video featuring Harper, the lawyer indicated that tribal members should not trust BCR because its attorneys were not American Indian.
“KTS relied heavily on racial stereotypes in its communications with the tribe,” the new filing reads, adding later that KTS attorneys were “falsely representing that BCR could not be trusted because they were white.”
“The racketeering activity… which Defendants conducted is wire fraud,” the complaint alleges.
Under the United States criminal code, racketeering of this sort is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, should a federal investigation follow.