Mashantuckets banish Pearson after conviction in fraud case
By Karen Florin
Publication: The Day
Published 01/05/2010 12:00 AM
Prosecutors seek to revoke former tribal official's bail.
The Mashantucket Pequots banished Christopher M. Pearson from their tribe last month after his conviction in federal court on eight counts of wire fraud.
The news of his exile from the reservation and the loss of his incentive payments from the Mashantuckets prompted the U.S. attorney's office last week to seek revocation of Pearson's bond.
The 50-year-old Pearson maintained his innocence as recently as Monday. He deferred questions to his attorney, who could not immediately be reached to comment.
A jury in U.S. District Court in Hartford found the 50-year-old former deputy chief operating officer of the tribe guilty in November of defrauding investors in a resort on a Honduran island of $280,000. Judge Robert N. Chatigny increased his bond from $200,000 to $300,000 based on the conviction and scheduled sentencing for Feb. 5. Pearson faces up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.
Tribal elders vote
The Mashantucket Pequot tribal Elders Council voted 22-0, with four members abstaining, to banish him from the tribe on Dec. 2. The elders determined "that the presence of Christopher M. Pearson on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation and properties … presents a serious threat to the tribe and the tribal community," according to the banishment order.
Federal prosecutors David T. Huang and Eric J. Glover then filed a motion to revoke Pearson's bail and detain him until sentencing. Pearson had indicated after his conviction that he is not a flight risk because he has ties to the tribe and received incentive payments.
"Shortly after his conviction, however, the Tribe banished the defendant and, as a result, his circumstances have changed significantly," Huang wrote in a Dec. 28 court document. "He now has no home, no community, no incentive payments from the tribe and no job."
The government also claims that Pearson, who moved from his home to an East Lyme motel following his banishment, failed to report the move to the probation office.
Pearson said in a phone interview Monday that the investors believed in him until the economy started to falter. He had taken the witness stand at his trial, describing with great enthusiasm the plans to develop the Honduran island of Roatan. He said he embarked on the project to give his life meaning and to help the people of the United States and Roatan.
"I'm just an ordinary guy trying to do an extraordinary thing," he said in a phone interview Monday.
Pearson's attorneys, Conrad Seifert and Jeremiah Donovan, objected to the government's bail revocation motion in a document filed in federal court last week. Pearson is less financially secure as a result of his banishment from the tribe, but is no more of a flight risk than he was on the day the judge set his bond, the document says. His wife, Deborah, continues to live at his house on the reservation. Pearson plans to submit a financial statement to the probation office that "demonstrates that despite the loss of the stipend, he is still in a position to support himself and his family," according to the document.
A hearing has not yet been scheduled on the bail revocation motion.
In addition to the federal criminal trial, Pearson was tried last year in a civil case in Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court. There has been no ruling in the tribal case to date, though a hearing is scheduled for Thursday regarding the attachment of his home on 6 Old Pequot Trail on the reservation.