The first domino fell Friday in the alleged scheme to defraud owners of the Thunder Valley Casino of $18.6 million: The tribe fired its administrator, one of three men implicated in the case.
Greg Baker, 44, had been on paid leave since word of the Internal Revenue Service probe became public last week with the filing of an affidavit in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.
No charges have been filed in the case and Baker's lawyer has said his client did nothing wrong.
But the United Auburn Indian Community said Friday that it had fired Baker from the post he had held since December 2003.
"He was terminated for cause because of the seriousness of the allegations," tribal spokesman Doug Elmets said.
Baker supervised about 90 staffers at tribe headquarters and will have his duties handled on an interim basis by tribal Chairman David Keyser, Elmets added.
Sacramento attorney Tom Johnson, who represents Baker, called the decision "unfortunate" and added in an email, "Greg Baker's leadership at the UAIC provided unprecedented growth and financial success."
Johnson has said the 189-page affidavit filed in the case "reads like a novel" and that the government is mistaking the large amounts of money generated by tribal gambling for something nefarious.
Thunder Valley, the tribe's casino in Lincoln, is immensely successful and opened a 300-room hotel in 2010.
Baker had overseen tribal operations since coming to the attention of tribal leaders while teaching money management to some tribe members as an instructor at American River College, according to Bee archives.
But the IRS contends Baker also used his position to conspire with two other men to siphon off millions in an overbilling scheme involving the construction of the tribe's new headquarters complex.
According to the IRS affidavit, which seeks to seize luxury properties owned by the three men to recoup the money, Baker approved payment of inflated and phony invoices in exchange for a share of the proceeds.
Baker allegedly conspired with Bart Volen, a 52-year-old Sacramento developer hired in October 2006 to oversee construction of the complex, a series of four buildings known as the Indian Hills Office Project, or IHOP, in Auburn.
Baker and Volen also allegedly conspired with a third man, 48-year-old Darrell Hinz, a former consultant to the tribe who acted as project manager until the construction was completed.
Sacramento attorney William Portanova, who represents Hinz, has dismissed the claims in the affidavit as fantasy, saying "the government is proceeding on the theory that the numbers are so big, it must be criminal."
Volen's attorney, Matthew Jacobs has declined comment.