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Man admits defrauding California casino tribe

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- A building contractor from San Diego faces up to 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty Thursday to defrauding a casino-operating Indian tribe in Northern California of more than $17 million through a kickback scheme.

Bart Wayne Volen admitted conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud, conspiring to launder money, and filing a false tax return, federal prosecutors said. He is set for sentencing in December.

Volen, 54, who also has a home in Haiku, Hawaii, was charged in the alleged construction scam along with two former employees of the United Auburn Indian Community. The tribe operates Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln, a suburb of Sacramento.

“Utilizing insiders and an extensive trail of false documents to back up his scheme, Bart Volen managed to steal an incredibly large amount of money from a community that plays a very special role in our district,” U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner of Sacramento said in a statement.

The tribe's former administrator, Greg Scott Baker, 46, of Newcastle, and the tribe's former quality-control expert, Darrell Patrick Hinz, 48, of Cameron Park, are awaiting trial in October.

Attorneys for the two men have said they expect their clients to be vindicated. Volen's attorney, Matt Jacobs, did not immediately return a telephone message.

Volen is alleged to have paid about $7.5 million in kickbacks to Hinz.

Prosecutors say Hinz used part of the money to buy tribal administrator Baker a Lake Tahoe vacation home, a $54,000 in-ground pool, a $70,000 BMW and a trip to Hawaii, among other things.

The tribe hired Volen in 2006 to finish building a school, a community center and two administrative offices on the tribe's property in Auburn. Prosecutors say he routinely submitted inflated invoices or false change orders for work that was never performed.

Volen also admitted to falsely claiming business loss deductions on his taxes, causing lost taxes of between $2.5 million and $7 million.

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