26 sovereign citizens arrested for operating illegal casinos in North Carolina

Federal, state and local law enforcement authorities conducted a joint operation on Monday, July 23, 2018, to stem the illicit gambling activities by a sovereign citizen group called the “Tuscarora Nation,” located near Laurinburg, North Carolina.

Authorities arrested 26 sovereign citizens affiliated with the group following a year-long multi-agency investigation.

Suspects have been charged with various criminal violations including illegal gambling, manufacturing controlled substances and money laundering at the bogus casinos located in Maxton, Pembroke and Red Springs. During the raid, police seized multiple vehicles, currency, marijuana, firearms, and over 200 illegal gaming machines.

“Most of the offenders arrested today were considered to be armed and dangerous and many have criminal records,” said Robeson County Sheriff Kenneth Sealey whose agency was involved in the arrests.

The Tuscarora is a federally recognized Native American tribe in New York, but it is not recognized by the federal government or the state of North Carolina. In the past, some sovereign citizen groups, such as the Little Shell Pembina Nation and Washitaw Nation, have impersonated Native American tribes and falsely claim tribal status. They believe such status gives them immunity from government authority as well as the ability to create and enforce their own laws.

According to media sources, the Tuscarora Nation of North Carolina operated “three illegal casinos, an unlicensed police force and an indoor marijuana grow with multiple outdoor grows.” The group also reportedly made threats to “wage war” against 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,” said Terrance Merriweather, Director of the North Carolina’s Bureau of Investigation – Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE).

The casinos reportedly were open 24 hours a day/seven days a week and took in thousands of dollars per week. The gambling facilities were also guarded by heavily armed security personnel who were not only unlicensed, but also drove pickup trucks with blue flashing lights (similar to legitimate emergency vehicles). According to a law enforcement source involved in the investigation, the Maxton casino had security personnel armed with assault rifles.

Those arrested include Kendall Locklear (described as the leader of the Tuscarora Nation), Keaton Locklear (the leader’s son) and Robert Chavis, who was arrested for possessing two stolen guns.

Authorities also arrested the following individuals for felonious operation of illegal slot machines and other illicit gambling charges: Michelle Locklear, 46; Kendrick Locklear, 21; Micheal Locklear, 17; Fredrick Hawkins, 45; Timmy Oxendine, 46; Perry Locklear, 44; Timothy Jacobs, 44; Jeffrey Ingram; Keton Oxendine, 24; Jerry Oxendine, 59; Edith Oxendine, 55; Miranda Jo Dial, no age given; Derena Chavis, 52; Felicia Campbell, 46; Dustin Warriax, 48; Richard Sampson, 44; and Marcus Bullard, 19.

Of particular interest, in 1988, Timothy Jacobs (among those arrested) was involved in an armed takeover of the Lumberton newspaper office to draw attention to what he claimed was government corruption in Robeson County. Jacobs later surrendered and released all of the hostages unharmed. He received a six year prison sentence, but was released early in 1992.

Upon his release, Jacobs reportedly became an “Indian activist” who believes that “a piece of land in Greene County [North Carolina], where more than 900 tribal members lived at Fort Nooherooka – and, were massacred in 1713 – should be returned to the Tuscarora.”