Jan 18, 2023 - News

3 Seminole Tribe of Florida members temporarily banished

A black, white and red sign for the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation

Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has temporarily expelled three members who raised allegations of corruption among tribal leaders in the media, the Florida Bulldog reports.

What's happening: The governing Tribal Council has accused the trio of making false allegations, which leaders say could jeopardize the tribe's gaming licenses. The council voted last month to banish the three members from entering any tribal government buildings or schools for 60 days.

  • On Jan. 3, Seminole police served them "tribal-wide trespass affidavits" and threatened them with arrest should they try to enter tribal facilities.

The latest: The Tribal Council is holding a meeting this Friday, when further action could come, according to the watchdog news organization.

Background: The tribe used $3 million in federal COVID relief money to stage a raffle in October 2021 to encourage tribal members to get vaccinated. The grand prize was $1 million.

  • Tribe member Laura Billie started a petition to recall Seminole Tribe Chairman Marcellus Osceola, partly because the tribe didn't publicly announce the winners in the drawing, and Osceola's son, a minor, was rumored to have won the top prize.
  • Billie and her cousin, Lesley Billie, spoke with the Florida Bulldog in December about the matter.
  • Osceola has denied the claims. A tribal spokesperson told the Bulldog that winners were chosen at random via computer, but their names were not made public due to privacy requirements for health records.

Plus: The third tribe member, Virgil "Benny" Motlow, made corruption allegations against current and former Tribal Council members in a post in Native Sun News in November.

Context: The tribe makes billions of dollars — an estimated $5.2 billion this year — via casino and hotel operations and its ownership of Hard Rock International, which spans 75 countries.

Between the lines: If the trio are permanently banished from the tribe, they could forfeit $10,500 per month — the amount each of the tribe's 4,300 members receive from its operations, the Bulldog reports.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Miami.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Miami stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Miami.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more