MAXTON — More than two dozen people were arrested and guns, drugs and more than 200 gaming machines were seized Monday when warrants were served at illegal casinos throughout Robeson County.
Lawman said many of those accused claimed sovereign status, saying they were not subject to state and federal laws.
The North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement Branch, with the assistance the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation simultaneously executed search and arrest warrants at illegal gambling locations in and around Maxton, Pembroke and Red Springs, according to information released by the Robeson County government.
Members of the Tuscarora Nation were arrested as the result of a yearlong federal and state investigation, called Operation Bandit, that found nation members were operating three illegal casinos, and an indoor marijuana growing site and multiple outdoor growing sites, said Patty McQuillan, an SBI spokeswoman. The Tuscarora Nation also is alleged to have operated an unlicensed police force that made threats of war against law enforcement.
The 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week casinos were located at 1345 Modest Road in Maxton, 129 Nancy Lane in Pembroke and 1521 Opal Road in Red Springs, according to McQuillan.
Among the people arrested were Tuscarora Nation leader Kendall Locklear, his son Keaton, armed casino personnel and other casino staff, according to McQuillan. Robert Chavis was arrested for possession of two stolen firearms.
According to the SBI, arrested for “felonious operate, allow to be operated and keep in possession of illegal slot machines, and gambling” were Kendall Locklear, 57; Michelle Locklear, 46; Kendrick Locklear, 21; Micheal Locklear, 17; Fredrick Hawkins, 45; Timmy Oxendine, 46; Perry Locklear, 44; Timothy Jacobs, 44; Keton Oxendine, 24; Jerry Oxendine, 59; Edith Oxendine, 55; Robert Chavis, 62; Derena Chavis, 52; Felicia Campbell, 46; Dustin Warriax, 48; Richard Sampson, 44; Marcus Bullard, 19; and Jeffrey Ingram and Miranda Jo Dial, whose ages were not available as of Monday evening.
Some of the people arrested were charged with gambling, manufacturing controlled substances and money laundering at illegal casinos, McQuillan said. Vehicles also were seized during the raids.
“Citizens living near the casinos complained of the illegal activity taking place and notified law enforcement,” said Terrance Merriweather, branch head of North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement. “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.”
Two black SWAT trucks and a white van filled with people arrested after the Maxton casino was raided were seen driving toward toward N.C. 71. about 12:15 p.m Monday past three Robeson County sheriff’s deputies posted at Modest and Adrenia roads.
“Most of the offenders arrested today were considered to be armed and dangerous and many have criminal records,” said Kenneth Sealey, Robeson County sheriff. “People living in those towns were scared of the activities taking place around the casinos. At the end of the day, this operation is all about community betterment.”
Traffic along Modest Road was diverted Monday away from the Maxton property, which swarmed with personnel from multiple law enforcement agencies. Contractors hired to dismantle and take out the illegal games and to remove the confiscated vehicles were ushered in.
“Are you part of the crew?” a sheriff’s deputy asked a man driving a work truck on Modest Road. “Yep, we were told you can go on in do what you have to do.”
Also assisting in the raids were the Lumberton, Maxton, Red Springs police departments; soldiers from the North Carolina and Virginia National Guard; The University of North Carolina at Pembroke campus police; the Department of Public Safety K-9 unit and the Division of Motor Vehicles License and Theft Bureau, according to the Robeson County news release.
The United States Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District will be prosecuting this case with Special Agent Bryan Moultis, a case manager of the United States Department of Homeland Security Investigation, according to the release.
Operation Bandit is a continuing investigation. More arrests in Robeson County are expected.
Reach Annick Joseph by calling 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected]