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Mohegan Tribe to buy developer out of Wisconsin casino project

MADISON, Wis. --A Kenosha businessman who dropped out of an $808 million casino project as he is being investigated by federal authorities will have his portion of the deal bought out by the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut.

Dennis Troha backed out of the casino project on Friday, saying he wanted more time to do other things. His attorney, Frank Gimbel, confirmed Tuesday that the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office are looking into more than $170,000 in donations that Troha and family members made to Gov. Jim Doyle since 2002.

Doyle has the final say on whether the off-reservation entertainment center and casino at Kenosha's Dairyland Greyhound Park is built. The project is being developed by the Menominee and Mohegan Indian tribes.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the Troha investigation on Saturday, quoting anonymous sources. Gimbel said Tuesday that the newspaper's report was accurate, but declined to comment further.

Spokeswomen for the Milwaukee office of the FBI and U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic both declined to comment.

State law limits individuals to $10,000 in donations in any year to any one candidate. The law also prohibits people who have reached the limit from providing others with money to make a contribution.

To prove Troha acted illegally, criminal investigators would have to show that family members or friends received money and were instructed to make donations to a specific candidate, said Mike McCabe, director of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

"It's not something that is ever readily apparent on a campaign finance report," he said.

Troha donated $10,000 to Doyle in 2002 and 2003, while his wife, Natalie, gave the maximum to Doyle in 2002. Patricia Troha, the wife of Troha's brother, also gave the $10,000 maximum in 2002.

A variety of other Troha family members gave numerous donations to Doyle since 2002, many of them at or near the $10,000 limit, according to campaign records maintained by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Meanwhile, Mohegan tribal leaders have reached an agreement to buy out Troha's casino development firm, Kenesah Gaming Development LLC, said Evan Zeppos, a spokesman for the casino project. He declined to release details of the deal.

The changes come as the casino project appears to be picking up momentum with approval from the regional U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs office in January. It still needs the OK from the federal office and Doyle.

The governor has repeatedly said he will not make up his mind on the casino until it reaches his desk. He also has said donations from Troha and family members will not affect his decision.

Peter Schultz, project coordinator for the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, said his tribe's buyout of Troha's interest should not affect the approval process.

"I think, clearly, our goal here is to keep momentum, to just soldier on," Schultz said.


Information from: Kenosha News,