AP NEWS

South Dakota project fights financial crimes against tribes

May 28, 2019

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota project has uncovered dozens of people and organizations that collectively stole millions of dollars from nine Native American reservations, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Dakota.

Aileen Crawford, the office’s spokeswoman, told the Rapid City Journal that the Guardians Project has led to 42 convictions on federal charges including fraud, theft and embezzlement from tribes and tribal organizations.

The project, which launched in 2015, brings together local and federal agencies to investigate allegations of corruption and financial crimes against the state’s Native American communities. Many of the convictions have involved tribal employees, tribal executives and out-of-state business owners.

A former cashier for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s bingo operations was charged with embezzlement and larceny in March after being accused of stealing more than $1,000 from the business. A month later, a former employee of a casino owned by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was accused of stealing more than $1,000.

Tribal leaders have also been charged through the project. Five executives from the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe pleaded guilty to embezzlement in 2017 after stealing more than $81,500 from the tribe.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office identifies possible cases for the project when an individual calls 911 “like any other criminal case,” Crawford said.

“On a weekly basis, this office and the participating agencies learn about cases from whistleblowers, through concerned citizens and by leaders reporting misconduct taking place in tribal entities,” she said.

The office’s staff also visits reservations, communicates with tribal governments and creates press releases to share how to report possible criminal activity to the local and federal agencies involved in the project.

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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