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Charismatic Alligator Wrestler Investigated By FBI

According to a St. Petersburg Times story, James E. Billie, alligator wrestler and six-term Seminole Tribal Council chairman, has been suspended by the Council over allegations of misconduct.

And now the FBI is probing into Billie's relationship with a female ex-employee of Seminole tourist attraction, Billie Swamp Safari, in Big Cypress, FL. Agents wanted to know why the 23-year-old former gift shop employee was given rent money, Rolex watches and other jewelry, a truck and a car. Her trips with Billie on the tribe's corporate jet were also questioned.

Billie's wife, Lesley, 28, is accused in a police report of accosting the woman in October, beating her with fists and a cell phone, robbing her and threatening to "slice her open and pull her guts out."

The FBI has also questioned Ms. Chris O'Donnell, a former tribal administrator who sued Billie, alleging sexual harassment. O'Donnell claims Billie got her pregnant, forced her to have an abortion, then fired her. She contends Billie took $100,000 in phony sick leave to pay her off.

Billie, 57, is described by the Times as "the charismatic alligator wrestler and songwriter who has helped transform the Seminole Tribe into a corporate empire since he was first elected in 1979. Under his direction, the 2,800-member tribe has gained new prosperity, with each tribal member now receiving annual dividends of $24,000."

95 cents of every dollar earned by the tribe comes from gambling, and they currently have a $400-million plan on the drawing board to build Hard Rock Cafe hotel-casinos in Hollywood and Tampa, and is in talks with the Department of Interior to turn five tribal bingo halls into full Las Vegas-style casinos.


Big Cypress Seminole Reservation

Snake Rd, Clewiston, FL
Big Cypress Seminole Reservation. I-75 exit 49 (Government Rd/Snake Rd), then north 19 miles to the park entrance. Follow the signs.
Daily 9-5 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
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