North Carolina

Blacked-out windows and secret police: NC gambling ring raided — again, authorities say

In July, Robeson County deputies along with state and federal agents raided a network of what they called illegal casinos in rural North Carolina. Authorities said the raids netted gaming machines and 26 arrests, and broke up a gaming ring run by the Tuscarora Indian Nation, which claims sovereignty.

Last week, agents from the same agencies raided the Buffalo Ranch again, seized 40 slot machines and arrested four people, WPDE reports. Officers arrested Kendall Locklear again, the leader of the Tuscarora who still faces charges from the July raids.

Over the summer, the Robeson County sheriff said the raids at three casinos capped a yearlong investigation that found the Tuscarora Nation operated warehouses with blacked out windows and no clocks on the walls and filled with gambling machines.

The raids in July also found a marijuana growing operation and accused the Tuscarora Nation of running its own secret police force, according to a press release announcing the earlier raids.

The Tuscarora Nation is not a recognized tribe in North Carolina. The tribe does have federal recognition in New York, The News & Observer reported in July, and has been fighting for recognition in North Carolina since the 1970s.

Officers arrested seven people last week on new charges connected to gambling and drugs, according to WMBF. The NC Alcohol Law Enforcement charged Locklear, James E. Blue Jr., Frederick Hawkins and Shania Harris in connection with running the casino, the station reports. A judge gave each a $100,000 bond, WMBF reports.

Officers also arrested Herman Daniel Locklear, Jason Locklear and Ronnie Smith on charges related to selling marijuana, WPDE reports.

The Tuscarora have grabbed headlines on and off over the past decades as they argued for recognition in North Carolina. The tribe cannot operate casinos without federal recognition.

In the most notorious case, two tribal leaders took over the offices of the Robesonian newspaper in 1988 and took the staff hostage. No one was injured, but Eddie Hatcher and Timothy Jacobs were sentenced to 10 years in prison for kidnapping, The News & Observer reported.

Jacobs was arrested again over the summer for his alleged involvement in the illegal casinos, according to The News & Observer.

“This group openly expressed beliefs that neither the laws of North Carolina nor the United States applied to them, putting law-abiding citizens in danger. We hope today’s arrests provide a safer community for them,” Terrance Merriweather, head of North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement, said in a press release after the July raids.

“Most of the offenders arrested today were considered to be armed and dangerous and many have criminal records,” then-Robeson County Sheriff Kenneth Sealey said in July. “People living in those towns were scared of the activities taking place around the casinos.”

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.