MAXTON — The man who claims Tuscarora Nation citizenship and ran one of three casinos recently shut down by state, federal and local law enforcement agencies says he broke no laws and has no affiliation with the other gaming houses.
“I don’t know what they did wrong, but I was not breaking any laws,” Kendall Locklear, 57, said Tuesday. “We have permits, each one (gaming machine) has got permits.”
Locklear was charged with three counts of gambling, three counts of possession of five or more gaming machines, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, four counts of trafficking heroin, two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia, maintaining a drug dwelling, and manufacturing marijuana after his property at 1349 Modest Road in Maxton was raided on July 23. His has made bond, which was set at $250,000.
“The others, I am not really concerned about. My land is different. I don’t live under the (U.S.) Constitution. I am under the treaties,” Locklear said. “Their land is still under North Carolina. They pay taxes.”
The other two properties, located at 129 Nancy Lane in Pembroke and 1521 Opal Road in Red Springs, raided on July 23 were operating under federal, state, and local laws, Locklear said. His wasn’t, he claims, saying state, federal and local laws do not apply to him on his land.
“He certainly made some good points in your (reporter) conversation with him,” said Locklear’s attorney, Hubert Rogers III. “It will be up to the state and the government to meet their burden of proof that any activities that he may or may not have been involved in are violation of any law.”
The 11.23 acres Locklear owns is “secured in perpetual trust with the sovereign Government of Tuscarora Country,” according to a deed from 2014 Locklear showed a reporter from The Robesonian. The government branch office of Tuscarora Nation has jurisdiction and authority on Locklear’s tax-exempt land, according to the document.
In November 2016, Locklear was authorized by the Tuscarora Nation government to operate for the “purposes of entertainment” slot machines and to sell Tuscarora government surplus products on his land, according to a document hanging on the wall of the now empty casino.
“I went to Six Nations. They told me, ‘You can get started,’” Locklear said. “I started with two machines, then four. When I got to 20, I had that (casino) built. It’s been open for about 14 months, that’s all.”
He had acquired 83 machines and had plans to use the money to keep growing his business so he can keep giving back to the community, Locklear said. As part of the agreement to hold a gaming permit from Six Nations, 5 percent of Locklear’s earnings must be donated to an established fund for people who are in financial need.
As to the drug-related charges, Locklear said, “I do not deal with any pills, drugs, heroin, that’s against my beliefs. I have no idea how they come up with that. We don’t need that in our community with our people. It’s real bad around here already. That is why I am so against it. It destroys people.”
The marijuana plants seized in the raid were not on Locklear’s property, nor do they belong to him, he said.
“They got that from over there down yonder, about 200 yards that way, and they got some from across the street. They tried to make it like they got it from my grow room,” Locklear said. “How can I be charged, they weren’t on my land?”
Locklear said he does have a grow room but it is not for marijuana. The room is for growing plants such a sweet grass, spearmint and sometimes tomatoes.
“The lady from ALE (Alcohol Law Enforcement) told me, ‘I came up here under the assumption that you’re selling alcohol to patrons,”’ Locklear said. “They didn’t find not one empty bottle of anything on my property. Not a shot glass, nothing.”
Locklear pointed at signs on doors that reads, “No alcohol permitted.”
“I’ve always kept alcohol away,” he said. “It is not good for business and only brings trouble.”
Unlike with the other two raided properties, no stolen firearms were found on his property, he said. And, the security personnel at his property were trained and carried firearms permits.
“Two of them were vets. They all had permits to carry. I just don’t understand,” Locklear said. “Not one of them (guns) were stolen. I wasn’t charged with being in possession of any stolen firearms.”
Locklear is confident he will be absolved of all the charges.
The Tuscarora Nation out of New York has been distancing itself from the nation in Robeson County, Locklear said. The reason has nothing to do with recent events, or the negative publicity the raids have generated.
“They are mad. We (Tuscarora living in N.C.) are self-sufficient. They (NY) want to rely on government money. That is what it boils down to, all about grant money,” Locklear said. “They told me, ‘I hate to say this but we can’t be associated or be a part of you guys. We can’t put our grant money on the line. You are going to hurt us.”’
Some civil servants may not have a full grasp surrounding Indian affairs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ website. Sometimes, laws between both governments can be skewed.
Many state officials may not even fully understand that tribes are functioning governments, according to the website. Tribes may be hesitant to form working relationships with state governments because of their constitutional and direct relationship with the federal government. They feel cooperation with states might in some way diminish their sovereign powers. Tribes have jurisdiction over some matters, states have jurisdiction over others, and in many areas they have joint jurisdiction.
There is only one, out of 573 tribes in 35 states, federally recognized tribe in North Carolina, which is the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian, according to the website. The Tuscarora Nation of New York also is federally recognized.
The state-recognized tribes in North Carolina are Cohaire Intra-Tribal Council, Inc; Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe; Lumbee Tribe; Meherrin Nation; Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation; Sappony and Waccamaw-Siouan Tribe, according to the website.
For now, Locklear said he wants to focus on operating the businesses that are viable to generate money to support weekly community dinners and the upkeep of the in-ground pool used by the community kids. An electronic sign in front of the casino flashes “Closed temporarily.”
“We were in the process of building a slaughterhouse to process our Angus,” Locklear said. “We just want to be able to stay self-sufficient and help out our people. This is just temporary.”
More than two dozen people were arrested and guns, drugs and more than 200 gaming machines were seized when warrants were served at illegal casinos throughout Robeson County on July 23. The raids were the result of a yearlong investigation called Operation Bandit.
Locklear is scheduled back in court on Aug. 14.
Reach Annick Joseph by calling 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected]