Feds indict 35 people in gang-related drug trafficking case

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Federal prosecutors in Oklahoma City say 35 people have been indicted as part of a drug-trafficking conspiracy coordinated by imprisoned gang leaders using contraband cellphones.

U.S. Attorney Timothy Downing said in a statement Friday that the indictments resulted from a year-long investigation of activities of the Southside Locos Gang and some of its imprisoned leaders.

Downing said law enforcement seized more than 111 pounds (50.35 kilograms) of methamphetamine, 8 pounds (3.63 kilograms) of heroin, 34 firearms and $200,000 in currency during the investigation.

Downing said: "This investigation illustrates the threat that contraband cellphones in prison pose."

Prosecutors allege that gang leaders inside Oklahoma's prisons used contraband cellphones to coordinate the distribution of multiple kilograms of meth and heroin from sources in Mexico to locations in Oklahoma.

Most of those indicted have been arrested, including several defendants who were already in custody, but Downing said nine defendants still aren't in custody and are considered fugitives.

Stitt: Tribes would 'illegally' run games without new deal

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma's Native American tribes would be illegally operating certain gambling games after Jan. 1 if they don't resolve a dispute over the tribes' compacts with the state, Gov. Kevin Stitt said.

In the latest salvo in the state government's dispute with the tribes over whether the tribes' current compacts will expire at the end of the year or renew automatically under the current terms, Stitt questioned how tribes could offer gaming without a "contract" that allows them to operate.

"Are they going to be operating illegally Class III games?" Stitt said Thursday. "That brings a whole host of issues with vendors."

Class III games include slot machines and roulette, Tulsa World reported.

The state and several tribes have been sparring for months over whether the tribal gambling compacts automatically renew for another 15-year term on Jan. 1.

The Republican governor insists that they will expire at the end of the year, and he wants to renegotiate the amount of money the tribes pay the state for their exclusive right to operate casinos in the state.

"The truth is on our side," Stitt said. "I feel so confident that Oklahomans can see right through a certain industry, the casino industry, saying, 'These go on forever.' That can't be true."

The state currently collects between 4% and 10% of tribal gambling revenue. Stitt said negotiations on new rates need to start at 25%, which is the highest rate paid by tribes in some other states.

But the tribes say the compacts automatically renew, and they won't enter negotiation talks unless Stitt acknowledges that. They plan to continue operating Class III games on Jan. 1.

"The fact is, our compacts renew and that our gaming will be as lawful in January 2020 as it is in December 2019," said Stephen Greetham, senior counsel for the Chickasaw Nation. "Governor Stitt's position is not supported by law, logic or the compact's plain language.

The Chickasaw Nation said this week that any disruption to its gaming operations would pose "an intolerable risk" to the tribe.

Oklahoma governor picks agency veteran as new prisons boss

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed on Friday a longtime Department of Corrections veteran to lead the agency.

Stitt announced Scott Crow, a 23-year employee of the agency, would serve as the new executive director. Crow has been the agency's interim director since June, when his predecessor Joe Allbaugh abruptly resigned.

In a statement, Stitt praised Crow for helping organize re-entry fairs ahead of a mass commutation last month and for improving morale among agency employees.

"Crow is strengthening morale among employees and setting goals to modernize operations, and he is the right person to receive the appointment to be the next director of ODOC," Stitt said.

Before joining the agency in 1996 as a special investigation supervisor, Crow worked in law enforcement in southwest Oklahoma.

The Department of Corrections employs about 4,300 workers at its 24 facilities across Oklahoma and has an annual budget of more than $550 million.

Crow's appointment will require state Senate confirmation in 2020.