Times are difficult for Sachem Golden Eagle of the Western Mohegan Indian tribe. It seems that he is not a sachem and not even an Indian. His name isn't Golden Eagle; it is Ronald A. Roberts. Now he is awaiting sentencing on his recent conviction for filing false documents. The documents in question were the "proof" of his claims of having Native American ancestry.
I first mentioned Ronald A. Roberts' legal difficulties in the February 9, 2004, edition of this newsletter. At that time, Roberts was awaiting trial. His trial recently ended abruptly when he pleaded guilty to federal charges. He is waiting be sentenced on June 17. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Congress passed a law in 1988 allowing legitimate Native American nations to operate casinos. Since then, about 180 unrecognized tribes and loose-knit groups of people with Native American ancestry have petitioned the federal government to be recognized as Native American nations. The chance for easy money apparently was intoxicating for Ronald A. Roberts.
In May 1996, Roberts applied to become a member of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which owns Foxwoods in Connecticut, but officials there rebuffed him, according to testimony at his trial. He got a similar reception from the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut, which owns the Mohegan Sun hotel and casino.
Undaunted, Roberts submitted documents to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, claiming to be a member of the Western Mohegan Indian tribe. The documents included a doctored copy of an 1845 state census of Native Americans and a forgery of his grandfather's death certificate, all of which, he insisted, proved he was a descendant of prominent Native Americans on both sides.
Something didn't look right, and the Bureau decided to verify his claims. R. Lee Fleming, the director of the Office of Federal Acknowledgment in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said that federal genealogists determined that Ronald A. Roberts has no Native American ancestry. "Actually, Mr. Roberts is eligible to be a Son of the American Revolution," said Mr. Fleming.
Roberts' lawyer, Edward Menkin, said his client had pleaded guilty only to filing false documents and to an unrelated charge of using a false Social Security number to file for bankruptcy in 1995. Menkin said those guilty pleas did not mean he had renounced his claim to being a Native American.