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Originally published Friday, November 21, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Tribal head pleads guilty to cigarette trafficking

Thursday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Eddie Goodridge Jr., 33, pleaded guilty to trafficking in contraband cigarettes and agreed to repay the state $25.7 million he'd failed to collect in state taxes as an owner of the Blue Stilly Smoke Shop at Smokey Point, Snohomish County.

Times Snohomish County Reporter

He was known as "Fast Eddie" around Arlington, for his bright yellow Ferrari and his brash business plans to benefit the Stillaguamish Indian Tribe.

The Tribe's executive director alienated Snohomish County elected leaders and many neighbors by locating a $36 million tribal casino in a quiet, rural area north of Arlington, in defiance of local zoning laws to which the tribe wasn't subject. A cousin once described his attitude as, "We're Indian. We can do whatever we want."

Thursday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Eddie Goodridge Jr., 33, pleaded guilty to trafficking in contraband cigarettes and agreed to repay the state $25.7 million he'd failed to collect in state taxes as an owner of the Blue Stilly Smoke Shop at Smokey Point, Snohomish County.

His father, Edward Goodridge Sr., 60, a former tribal chairman; his mother, Linda Goodridge, 59; and a cousin, Sara Schroedl, 40, a former tribal-council member, also pleaded guilty to the charges. Each faces up to 18 months in prison at sentencing in March.

U.S. District Attorney Mary Dimke said the four conspired to sell contraband cigarettes that between March 2003 and May 2007 generated more than $55 million. The government estimated the four collectively made about $15 million in profits.

"They knew they were required to pay the Washington tax, and they did not pay it," Dimke said after Thursday's court proceedings.

Goodridge Jr. was just 24, with only some retail-sales experience, when he was named executive director of the Stillaguamish in 1999. His father was tribal chairman.

The 200-member tribe had no reservation, just an old administration building and about 30 houses built with Bureau of Indian Affairs money when Goodridge Jr. announced plans to raze the houses and build a casino on a two-lane country road two miles from Interstate 5.

Neighbors picketed, and elected officials denounced the location, but the Angel of the Winds Casino opened in 2004. It was expanded in 2007, and profits have allowed the Tribe to buy up about $20 million in adjacent land on which it hopes to consolidate and expand tribal services.

Goodridge launched the smoke shop at Smokey Point on a small parcel of Stillaguamish land. It was run as a private business and was initially operated by Stormmy Paul, a Tulalip tribal member.

In 2003, the Goodridges and Schroedl formed a company, Native American Ventures, and took over the business. Linda Goodridge managed the day-to-day operations, according to court papers.

The Goodridges had reason to know the consequences of not paying the state cigarette tax. In 2001, investigators seized evidence of illegal cigarette sales from Paul's shop. Paul was indicted in 2004 for illegal cigarette sales and distribution. In September 2006, Paul pleaded guilty to running a cigarette-smuggling ring that stretched to China and South America. He was sentenced to a year of home detention.

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In Arlington, several people who clashed with Goodridge Jr. over the casino and his confrontational style said they weren't surprised by the federal charges.

County Council member John Koster, R-Arlington, who opposed the casino location, said, "When you're intentionally thumbing your nose at the feds, sooner or later it comes back to bite you."

Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or lthompson@seattletimes.com Seattle Times researchers David Turim and Gene Balk contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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