Salinan Tribe applies for federal recognition

December 15, 2011

Kelly Gearhart

The local Salinan Indian Tribe has again applied for recognition from the federal government. [Tribune]

Last week, the tribe sent 920 pounds of documents to the federal government supporting the tribe’s request.

Chris Molina, a spokesman for the Salinan Tribe of San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties, told the Tribune, the tribe is “seeking to ‘recapture’ its history and heritage” through federal recognition. He said that opening a casino is not on the radar at this time, but something that could occur in the future.

In 1993, the Salinan Tribe first petitioned the U.S. Department of the Interior for federal recognition. Without federal recognition, federal laws prohibit tribes from owning and running an Indian gaming casino or receiving federal funds for health centers and education.

Molina approached the tribal council in early 2003 with assurances that four venture capitalists who went by the name of PMA could “fast track” its plans for recognition, but they would have to sign a confidentiality agreement that not even the tribe’s attorney would be permitted to read before they could hear the PMA proposal.

North County developer Kelly Gearhart was one of the members of PMA, along with attorney Grigger Jones, Molina and Dan Phillips. The members of PMA and the tribal officials entered into a contract to fast track the tribe’s application for federal recognition with the goal of eventually building a large Indian gambling casino on the northeast side of Paso Robles.

Molina said that the tribe’s legal firm at the time, Sacramento-based Monteau & Peebles, was “politically correct under the Clinton administration,” but was incorrect under the Bush administration, according to tribal confidential documents provided to CalCoastNews by Tribal members.

In March 2003, Molina introduced Tom Tellefsen and attorney Jerry Levine to the tribal council as two men who could shorten the timeline for federal recognition from 20 or more years to a few months because of their ties to the Bush administration, according to tribal documents.

Molina assured the tribal council that Levine was there to represent the tribe and not PMA, even though PMA would cover all attorney fees, according to the minutes of a March, 2003 council meeting. It was an assurance the tribal leaders said he failed to follow through on.

Within the next few months, Levine met with the partners of PMA several times behind the backs of the tribal council. Levine would later inform the council that Molina had said that tribal council members were aware of their meetings, according to the Tribes’ Molina File.

Molina continued to deny that either he or his partners had spoken to Levine.

“We haven’t spoken to him (Levine) or had any contact with him either,” Molina said at a June 4, 2003 tribal council meeting.

At the same meeting, tribal council members Gary Macagni and Dan Phillips told Molina that they were canceling their agreement to obtain federal recognition through PMA.

“By not telling us about the meetings and by intentionally not telling us when we questioned you shows dishonesty on your part,” Macagni said to Molina, according to transcripts of the meeting.

In October, 2003, PMA changed its name to Pejihota Consultants LLC and had Joe Diehl of the San Luis Obispo law firm of Diehl and Rodewald file a lawsuit against the Salinan Tribe, claiming fraud, breach of contract, and intentional misrepresentation for canceling their agreement to give Gearhart, Molina, Jones and Phillips a cut of future casino revenue in exchange for helping the tribe receiving federal recognition. The suit asked the tribe to return $20,000 in expenses as well as $2.5 million for lost revenue to Pejihota.

The tribe later agreed to reenter into an agreement with Pejihota Consultants LLC.

The LLC members expected to reap 40 percent of all gaming proceeds for a period of seven years with an option to extend for an additional seven years. For all other developments, the LLC members were expected to receive 50 percent of proceeds for 25 years with a 25 year extension option, according to the business plan of the Salinan Tribe and PeJiHoTa LLC.

After several years of failing to receive federal recognition through presidential approval, Gearhart began flying his jet to Sacramento in an attempt to get state legislators to help expedite federal recognition.

In 2008, Gearhart’s empire was crumbling. He stopped making loan payments and federal and state investigators had mounted investigation into charges of organized crime against Gearhart and a handful of his associates. In October of that year, he signed his interest in Pejihota over to his partners Jones, Molina and Phillips.

In February, 2009, Gearhart, formerly Atascadero’s Citizen of the Year, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in Ohio, claiming $6.5 million in estimated assets and $45.1 million in estimated debts. Gearhart failed to mention his involvement in the Pejihota LLC in his bankruptcy filing as required by law.

In June, 2009, Ohio Federal Bankruptcy Trustee Harold A. Corzin filed a fraud complaint against Jones, Molina, Phillips and the group’s Pejihota LLC for allegedly hiding assets for Gearhart with the “intent to hinder, delay, or defraud creditors.”

Responding to the trustee’s filing, the defendants denied allegations that they intentionally caused damages to the creditors of the Gearhart bankruptcy. The group stated that its business venture “had no value” at the time Gearhart resigned as a member of Pejihota LLC, according the defendants joint answer to the complaint filed.

In July, 2010, Ohio Bankruptcy Court Judge Marilyn Shea Stonum ordered Jones, Molina and Phillips to pay the bankruptcy trustees $20,000 to cover their costs of investigating Pejihota, to provide the trustees one fourth ownership in Pejihota with the right to buy back the trustee’s interest in the project by reimbursing Gearhart’s investment into Pejihota, $646,190.

The court noted there was the likelihood that Pejihota and the Salinan Indian Tribe would eventually succeed at gaining federal recognition for the tribe.

Pejihota and the Salinan Tribe’s plans call for building a 250,000-square-foot gaming casino, homes for about 400 people, a school, a hospital and a “green” energy plant on 2,500 areas they plan to purchase in either North San Luis Obispo County or South Monterey Counts, according to their business plan.



  1. standup says:

    Why hasn’t Kelly been arrested?

    (8) 8 Total Votes - 8 up - 0 down
    • cheseburger says:

      Kevin McCarthey for starters, and our money bought a lot of people and time,,,,.

      “In October, 2003, PMA changed its name to Pejihota Consultants LLC and had Joe Diehl of the San Luis Obispo law firm of Diehl and Rodewald file a lawsuit against the Salinan Tribe, claiming fraud, breach of contract, and intentional misrepresentation for canceling their agreement to give Gearhart, Molina, Jones and Phillips a cut of future casino revenue in exchange for helping the tribe receiving federal recognition.”

      That kind of crap, and Robert M. Jones, friends in high places is all I can say, he is guilty as a hound in a hen house,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,with blood on his neck!

      (5) 5 Total Votes - 5 up - 0 down
  2. mrcyberdoc says:

    I wish I could find a little “indian” in my background. I’d like to own part of a casino too. So if they get recognition, where it the land coming for their casino. Are they going to take back their heritage by reclaiming private property? If native americans were not allowed to build casinos or get a free hand out from our bankrupt federal government ya wonder how many would really care about recognition.

    (-6) 22 Total Votes - 8 up - 14 down
    • mkaney says:

      They wouldn’t. But they got jacked, so I don’t really care if they get the right to run casinos, although that ought to take the place of any payouts from the feds.

      (6) 8 Total Votes - 7 up - 1 down
      • Cindy says:

        Agreed, I wonder how they got passed up to begin with? There certainly is no question that they were here and once they thrived in large numbers. The evidence of them is everywhere including on a stone in a friends yard!

        (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
  3. Nancimeek says:

    Go to this link for a lists of different filings for Pe Ji Ho Ta casino over the years (in California and in Nevada) Interesting

    (7) 9 Total Votes - 8 up - 1 down
  4. bluemule says:

    Let the infighting begin!

    In California, Indian Tribes With Casino Money Cast Off Members
    Published: December 12, 2011

    (10) 10 Total Votes - 10 up - 0 down
  5. Nancimeek says:

    Copy of Letter to Dianne Feinstein as part of the Bill she is trying to pass in the Senate and House making it mandatory for background checks on ANYONE who wants to be part of an Indian casino venture. This includes placing people in power as PAWNS to assist other corrupt individuals.

    READ ON:

    April 25, 2011

    Honorable Dianne Feinstein
    United States Senator
    Attn: Devin Rhinerson
    Senate Hart Building 331
    Washington, D.C. 20510
    FAX: (202) 228-3841

    RE: SUPPORT “Tribal Gaming Eligibility Act”

    Dear Senator Feinstein,

    My name is Nanci Meek and I support your bill. I am a private investigator. My career experience has helped to provide undeniable evidence of the fraudulent actions of a gaming profiteer. My story provides grounded reasons to amend the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act that has allowed such profiteers to fraudulently abuse exceptions of restoration and acknowledgement of tribes to acquire land for gaming.

    The “Tribal Gaming Eligibility Act” will require the Secretary of the interior to use strict criteria to make a determination of eligibility of land for gaming purposes as a first-step in the fee-to-trust process. This is important as restoration and acknowledgement overlaid by the exceptions in the Indian gaming regulatory act have created a political vacuum where there is ambiguity, confusion and profiteers waiting to create or manipulate newly developed Indian tribes to promote gaming.

    This is my personal story of a tribal gaming profiteer and the unfortunate investors, many who are senior citizens that were taken in by a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme.

    While there have been many developers and investors with integrity, there are those who are nothing more than profiteers. One of the investors was my stepmother utilizing money obtained from cashing out our father’s stocks only three months after our father died.

    Through abuse of his trust by an attorney who was also one of four partners in a casino venture titled Pe Ji Ho Ta Casino. This is part of an ongoing scheme to bring a tribal casino to Salinas, California by a tribal group that was not even federally recognized and several questionable business men not part of the tribal group.

    In September of 2003 my father Elvin Meek, an attorney and two time Mayor of Rialto, California was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Telephone records reflect Attorney Robert Jones, a partner in the PeJiHoTa LLC was contacted by our father’s wife of 11 years, Elizabeth Meek, a Palauan native and non-American citizen while our father was in hospice care and asked to draft a Second Amendment to his original 1996 Trust as well as a pour over will. The circumstances surrounding his last days are suspect given Elizabeth Meek failed to contact myself, my brother, my daughter (Elvin’s granddaughter), several other family and friends to inform us of our dad’s condition. Phone records obtained will reflect during the months of August, September and October of 2003 several calls were placed to Robert Jones and his accountant Michael Gould but no calls were placed to family and friends. Calls placed by myself and my brother were ignored with the exception of one call placed on September 11, 2003 wherein my father sounded disoriented however we had no reason to fear he was in the shape he was in. A surprise visit by his long time friend of 35 years, Wes Stewart, on or about September 16th confirmed he was lethargic, bloated and incoherent. Medical Forensics prepared upon review of the medical records obtained concur he was 100% incapacitated and unable to utilize normal thought processes let alone execute documents. It is apparent Attorney Robert Jones was aware of his weakened state as was Elizabeth Meek and thus the opportunity to take advantage presented itself. It should be noted upon discovering we had obtained the medical records, Attorney Jones contacted my attorney in California and voiced his concern and objections to our having the medical records.

    My father, passed away on October 19, 2003. His trust executed in 1996 named me as the Trustee. Three months after he passed away, by virtue of a document drafted by Pe Ji Ho Ta partner Attorney Robert Jones drafted a Trust Certification for a previous trust dated 1992 which allowed our stepmother, Elizabeth Reklai Meek, to cash out our father’s stocks with Union Bank Cal. The check was in the amount of $646,481.96. Coincidentally this is the same amount almost to the penny of the buy in for the four principal investors in the PeJiHoTa Casino. Suspicion arose upon review of the Trust Certification which did not mention the Elvin R Meek Family Trust dated June 14, 1996. The 1st Amendment which a forensics report completed in 2008 concluded had forged signatures, essentially re-wrote our father’s original 1996 trust making Elizabeth Meek the sole trustee.

    Attorney Robert Jones presented to the courts in San Luis Obispo, in September of 2004 a document entitled the 1st Amendment to the Elvin R Meek Family Trust which was supposedly executed on September 16, 1997 and again according to Robert Jones affidavit executed November 10, 2005, another 1st Amendment was executed three days later in his offices in Atascadero, California. Our family was made aware of this document and for 3 years we asked for a copy of the document from the Bank of Hawaii, Robert Jones, and Elizabeth’s attorneys in Hawaii. None of whom would provide a copy to us. Upon finally receiving a copy of the questionable 1st Amendment signed in California it appeared the signatures had been forged. During an evidentiary hearing conducted in Hawaii on July 8th and 9th 2010, Elizabeth Meek admitted the signatures were not hers or my father’s. During this hearing Robert Jones admitted he did not know how the 1st Amendment with the forged signatures came to be in his offices nor did he recall signing the aforementioned affidavit. When questioned about the Pe Ji Ho Ta casino, Mr. Jones stated the corporation had since dissolved. It was confirmed several weeks later that the Pe Ji Ho Ta casino is not dissolved. According to the Motion for Authority To Compromise Controversy with Robert M Jones, Daniel Phillips, Chris Molina, PeJiHoTa LLC, PeJiHoTa of San Luis Obispo LLC filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court Northern District of Ohio Eastern Division of Akron entitled In re: Kelly V Gearhart and Tamara Lowe debtors executed on July 21, 2010 the casino venture Pe Ji Ho Ta is active.
    In July, 2010, Ohio Bankruptcy Court Judge Marilyn Shea Stonum ordered Jones, Molina and Phillips to pay the bankruptcy trustees $20,000 to cover their costs of investigating Pejihota, to provide the trustees one fourth ownership in Pejihota with the right to buy back the trustee’s interest in the project by reimbursing Gearhart’s investment into Pejihota, $646,190.
    In March of 2005 the Bank of Hawaii accepted co-trusteeship of the Estate. A few months later in July of 2005 Judge Tangeman in San Luis Obispo granted Attorney Robert Jones’ petition to move the probate case to Hawaii stating the Bank of Hawaii could only serve as co-trustee if the matter were in the state of Hawaii. We have always questioned why Attorney Robert Jones opened the probate in California since our father died in Hawaii and had been a Hawaiian resident since 1996. It should be noted only one month after the case was moved to Hawaii, Elizabeth Meek’s citizenship was finalized in August of 2005. By virtue of her citizenship being finalized, she would no longer need a co-trustee and yet Robert Jones and the Bank of Hawaii continued to move forward, selling properties and attempting to dissolve our father’s estate without notifying myself or my brother. The Bank of Hawaii held the position of co-trustee for three years before asking the court to be removed. None of the Trusts mentioned in the 1st Amendment were ever funded by the Bank of Hawaii. An audit was performed by the IRS in 2007 due to the non filing of income tax returns by Robert Jones and the Bank of Hawaii. After several years and several requests the beneficiaries did not receive an accounting of the estate until 2008. The accounting prepared in 2008 does reflect the money from the sale of the stock was placed in two CD’s however we have for years asked for documentation which would support this and Elizabeth along with her attorneys in Hawaii refuse to provide this to us. Therefore we question the validity of the handling of the money from the stock check.

    Several suspicions have arisen over the years relative to the conduct of Attorney Robert Jones. He did not contact me or my brother, Melvin Meek, until after two properties were in the process of being sold. One of which was in Arkansas and as a result of the Jones not being thorough with a title search on the Arkansas property, a judgment against the estate was granted in the amount of $311,204.00.

    It would appear Attorney Robert Jones acted in haste to assist Elizabeth in selling several of our father’s properties including one in Rialto, California (before a probate was legally opened in California) also a property in Hesperia, California, as well as the sale of the Arkansas property which had been in our family for close to 100 years, without contacting myself or my brother.

    Myself and my brother received a letter from Robert Jones in August of 2004 asking us to not contact Elizabeth Meek (“who does not feel comfortable speaking with you or Melvin for reasons known only to her”) and to have all calls and inquiries relative to the estate go through his offices. For the next several years repeated phone calls and correspondence to Attorney Robert Jones in Atascadero, California were ignored. In April of 2008 I filed a police report with the Atascadero police Department for fraud with respect to the questionable signatures on the 1st Amendment to our father’s trust. Detective Pflum investigated the case and submitted his findings to the San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s office. Among those findings were the Affidavit wherein Attorney Jones admitted the 1st Amendment was signed twice, once in Hawaii and three days later in California. We also submitted our forensics report prepared by Reed Hayes in Hawaii and concluding the signatures were forged. On March 6, 2011 I received a letter from Assistant District Attorney Jerret Gran stating they would not be moving on the allegations against Robert Jones due to lack of evidence.

    One could reasonably conclude Attorney Robert Jones, a partner with three others in the PeJiHoTa casino venture which has had several different LLC filings over the years both in California and in Nevada was motivated by greed and saw an opportunity to compromise our father’s intentions outlined in his original 1996 trust as well as his weakened condition, in an effort to gain control over our father’s estate and profit accordingly. Because of Attorney Robert Jones mishandling of our father’s trust close to $200,000 has been paid out of the trust in legal fees to himself and attorneys for Bank of Hawaii. Also the aforementioned judgment in the amount of $311,204.00 against the estate for the sale of the Arkansas property has not been satisfied.

    I thank you again for the hard work of your staff but most of all your political will to address this controversial issue of reservation shopping to protect all citizens, tribal and non-tribal of California.

    Nanci Meek

    (15) 33 Total Votes - 24 up - 9 down
  6. Mr. Holly says:

    Maybe Gearhart has switched over to Indian status like Molina has. Could this possibly be why he hasn’t been arrested and charged with anything yet. Maybe he is protected by the Indian status. Certainly would not surprise me in today’s world.

    (14) 20 Total Votes - 17 up - 3 down
    • cheseburger says:

      That $1.500,000 to Kevin McCarhtey didn’t put him in jail.

      Probably keeping him out for a while, think Kevin wants to give it back?,

      this monopoly game where nobody plays by the rules gets worse everyday.

      If he were Indian what would his tribe name be, “short, fat, one, who speak with forked tough?”

      (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
  7. Dexter says:

    I am in complete support of the history & heritage aspect of this issue but as many of you have suggested, Molina speaks with …. as they say ….forked tongue.

    It is about the potential of a $$$$ CASINO $$$$.

    The real scary part is the cast of characters who have been involved in this effort … cuz so many of them belong in jail.

    To the tribe I offer this advice … Don’t let Molina lead this effort because it will be doomed and your image will be forever tarnished. Stand proud !!!

    One other thing … Anyone want to bet if Congressman Kevin McCarthy will be trying to stick his hands into the tribes pockets?

    (30) 34 Total Votes - 32 up - 2 down
    • my2cents says:

      Exaclty Salinan9!!!! I know all of you dont know what Molina is doing, I am sorry you have to deal with someone like that to get recognized. Thats what happens when you try to put good faith into someone and all they what out or your recognition is a casino so THEY can get pretty much HALF of the revenue for themselves!!!

      (16) 18 Total Votes - 17 up - 1 down
    • Cindy says:

      Sal9, Why is Molina still in the picture and why does he continue to function as the tribes representative? Franky, as long as Chris continues to represent you, the casino issue/scandal is going to continue to be a stumbling block. It’s important to remember that the courts are aware of Kelly Geraharts initial involvement and the fact that Grigger Jones attempted to launder embezzled funds through the Pi Ji Ho Ta LLC fund. In fact the possibility of any future casino profits have been noted and set aside in the Ohio bankruptcy case, to the extent that the casino ever comes into fruition, that is.

      (14) 18 Total Votes - 16 up - 2 down
      • Cindy says:

        Ignorance is rarely a viable excuse. Why would certain decision makers be unaware?
        You know and so do others, why don’t you inform them?

        (2) 6 Total Votes - 4 up - 2 down
      • Nancimeek says:

        I think you are on the right track with the Money Laundering We know that Jones and our stepmother Elizabeth Meek, or her attorneys in Hawaii and the Bank of Hawaii could not account for that $646,000 (the exact buy in for Pe Ji Ho ta casino) for almost 5 years after Jones helped her cash out Dad’s stocks. THEN after 4 years of requesting an accounting we receive an accounting reflecting the money is in several CD’s. Nice move Jones! where was the money for the 5 years when you would not answer our phone calls and tell us what was going on? We went through the legal channels and around ever turn NOONE would give us a straight answer. SO if Jones is money laundering what about the other three partners, Gearhart, Molina and Phillips? A leopard doesn’t change his spots.

        (3) 5 Total Votes - 4 up - 1 down
  8. BeenThereDoneThat says:

    I like the comment that the primary objective isn’t to build a casino. Anyone one bet how quick this casino will get fast tracked once the approval of tribal lands goes through?? If that is what they want fine but be honest about it. I don’t buy for one minute that this wasn’t and isn’t their primary objective.

    (22) 28 Total Votes - 25 up - 3 down
    • easymoney says:

      “Chris Molina, a spokesman for the Salinan Tribe of San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties, told the Tribune, the tribe is “seeking to ‘recapture’ its history and heritage” through federal recognition.”

      Yeah right. This whole thing is about mo money, mo money…
      The only thing these guys” North County developer Kelly Gearhart was one of the members of PMA, along with attorney Grigger Jones, Molina and Dan Phillips.” had iun mind was big bucks. All that humanitarian stuff is just hogwash to dress the window…

      Once again I ask, where is all the tax money from the existing casinos in CA? The original arguement in favor of allowing casinos and the Lotto in the first place was the tremendos tax flow it would bring in to the state and how much humanitarin good it would do for the indians and the poor.

      (22) 30 Total Votes - 26 up - 4 down
      • my2cents says:

        I dont think you all should jump to conclusions based primarily on your own judgement. I know most of these tribe members and they are not the ones involved in all this Gearhart shinanigans. They are just trying to get recognized. It only went into consideration for the building of a casino because 80% of them live in San Luis Obispo county and want to generated income for the county. All these members are hard working people and are in no way trying to think just about money. They all beleive in supporting their families by earned moneys from a job!!

        Dont be jealous because you are not part of a tribe that wants to be recognized and possible own a casino!!!

        …..and just and FYI, I am not a member and in no way will be affected by this recognition. I just know these wonderful people and they deserve it!!!

        (-14) 22 Total Votes - 4 up - 18 down
        • BeenThereDoneThat says:

          First off not jealous. Have voted supporting many things that have come up with casinos in California. I think it is a travisty (not of mine or any other present living) of the state we left the American Indians in with the reservation system. It led to poverity and alcholism on a great scale. I’m all for letting them have a way to finally make some income for themselves.

          My point (if you go back and read) was what you are even suggesting. Is that yes they want to build a casino for their families to work, etc. Fine as I even stated, lets just stop the games of Cultural heritage nonsense and just say “hey we want to make money for our tribe.” That was the point I was making. There’s my two cents.

          (5) 15 Total Votes - 10 up - 5 down
        • Nancimeek says:

          My2cents? I have had two conversation with the Salinan representatives in Atascadero (there offices at the time were located next to Robert Grigger Jones office – not sure if the offices are still there) and was told they would like recognition in an effort to build medical facilities, educate tribal members etc. All honorable notions. However when I ask about the casino (twice I have made these phone calls) I am told they have nothing to do with Molina or Pe Ji Ho ta Now someone isn’t telling the truth. How can you be a part of the Salinan tribe and NOT KNOW about Molina and Pe Ji Ho Ta.

          Just wanted to share that with you. Make your own conclusions.

          (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
    • Nancimeek says:

      As long as Molina is involved in any way, Grigger Jones, Dan Phillips or Gearhart, whether it is through a pawn or someone put in place, the Casino is NOT going to happen. And if it does come to fruition it wouldn’t be for at least another 20 years and alot of background checking. I love it when posters use the phrase “Fast tracking” Trust me, there will be no FAST TRACKING. And in our life time no casino and most certainly no pay back to the investors involved with Gearhart and Grigger Jones.

      (3) 7 Total Votes - 5 up - 2 down
  9. danika says:

    Barber Dan must be so proud of his son’s friendship with Kelly Gearhart.

    (18) 24 Total Votes - 21 up - 3 down

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