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By Mike Hudson

The U.S. Department of Justice has assigned an active case number to an investigation into the fate of $100 million paid by the New York Power Authority to the Tuscarora Nation of Indians under the terms of the 2007 relicensing agreement, sources close to the investigation confirmed.

The $100 million is to be paid over the 50-year life of the agreement, and it is not known how much the Tuscarora have already received. The same can be said of the one megawatt of power the nation receives from NYPA each year. While thatÕs enough electricity to power each and every one of the 800 or some homes on the reservation, many who lived there have been denied electrical service and use generators to power the lights, refrigerators and other appliances.

Tribal Clerk Leo Henry, Neil Patterson Sr. and Leo Patterson Jr. rule the Tuscarora, with the help of Grand Island attorney Kendra Winkelstein. TheyÕve gone on record as opposing disbursement of the Power Authority windfall because too many members of the nation would use the money to "buy booze and drugs."

Their reasons for refusing to allow a large number of homes any electric service at all are more obscure. No one on the reservation knows what Henry, the Pattersons and Winkelstein are paying themselves, or anything else about where the settlement money -- or any other money received by the nation -- is being spent.

A new 33,000-square-foot community center on the reservation has been built at a purported cost of $7 million, or $212 per square foot. An experienced appraiser who toured the property last week said construction of a single-story, wood-framed building should have cost around $2 million.

The assignment of an active case number by the Justice Department is a significant development, in that it shows investigators have seen enough to think that something illegal may have taken place in connection with the Power Authority settlement.

Whether or not that is the case, Henry, the Pattersons and Winkelstein will likely have to be more forthcoming with federal agents than they have been, up to this point, with the Tuscarora people.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com July 19, 2011