To the Editor: Shares bad casino experience

In a recent Ridgecrest City Council meeting, a representative of the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe mentioned the Pechanga Casino as a positive example of what Ridgecrest can expect when the tribe opens its casino. Well, my family has had a very bad experience with Pechanga Casino.

My elderly father (now 91 years old) periodically went to the Pechanga Casino, especially on Fridays, since the casino targeted elderly people by giving them gambling money and other free incentives to visit the casino on Fridays. By the end of 2015, my dad’s gambling habit became more complicated with the addition of a “girlfriend” who went with him to the Pechanga Casino.

My family and I, along with my dad’s neighbors in Anaheim, were concerned. We met my dad’s “girlfriend,” and she consistently claimed that she and my dad were only “gambling buddies.” Over the next several months, we became more suspicious of this woman and concerned about my dad’s gambling habits.

My brothers and I approached Pechanga Casino management, and they refused to get involved. Finally, we hired a lawyer and a private investigator. The private investigator discovered that my dad’s “girlfriend” was a part of a prostitution ring that had been broken up in Orange County but had apparently set up shop inside the Pechanga Casino.

The private investigator took photos and video of a group of these women sitting next to elderly men at a card table, including my dad. The investigator witnessed my dad’s “girlfriend” taking chips from my dad when he would turn his head. We also have evidence that she used sexual favors to obtain thousands of dollars from my dad.

My brothers and I approached Orange County law enforcement, who refused to pursue the case. Finally, we successfully petitioned the Orange County Superior Court to issue a permanent restraining order against the woman who had been taking advantage of my dad. On May 31, 2016, my brother took a copy of the permanent restraining order to Pechanga Casino and tried to give it to a Pechanga security manager. The manager refused to accept the restraining order, stating that the casino was a part of the Pechanga sovereign nation and did not choose to enforce a court-issued restraining order.

My dad is now living with us in Ridgecrest, and that woman who had taken advantage of him has been out of the picture. But now I am concerned that a new Native American gambling casino might be coming to Ridgecrest, right down the street from our house. My family’s experience with Pechanga teaches me that it doesn’t matter what the tribal representatives say now; when they are here and their casino is up and running, it will be up to them whether or not they honor our laws. Prostitutes, get ready! Ridgecrest citizens, beware!

Lyn Witcomb

Story First Published: 2018-04-13