News and Press Releases

Sherman J. Lavallie, Sr. Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Cour

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Great Falls on March 23, 2010, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong, SHERMAN J. LAVALLIE, SR., a 51-year-old resident of Harlem, pled guilty to theft of federal monies by fraud. Sentencing has been set for May 25, 2010. He is currently released on special conditions.

In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebekah J. French, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:

The Fort Belknap Indian Community has a TANF program, which is a block grant program funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that provides direct financial assistance and work opportunities to needy families, but also requires each adult family member whose family receives TANF funds to participate in 20 hours per week of work activities.

On September 21, 2006, LAVALLIE applied for TANF funds for his 3-person household, comprised of himself, his wife, and his son. He later signed a form acknowledging that he would be required to work 20 hours per week, beginning October 9, 2006, to receive his requested benefits. The Director of the Fort Belknap Housing Department signed the sheet, indicating that LAVALLIE could work 20 hours per week at the Housing Department.

LAVALLIE submitted eight time sheets for the months of October 2006 through May 2007, showing that he had worked 20 hours per week for the Fort Belknap Housing Department. Each of the forms contained a line to be signed by the person verifying that the program participant actually worked the required 20 hours. Although there is a signature on the required line, the man who was the Housing Department Director during the relevant time period denied signing the form and reported that LAVALLIE did not work at the Fort Belknap Housing Department at any time between October 2006 and May 2007.

In early 2007, a new TANF case manager was assigned to the the LAVALLIE family. By June, she had discovered that LAVALLIE was forging the Housing Department Director's signature on his time sheets. This case manager, in consultation with the program director, terminated the LAVALLIE family's participation in the program based on fraud. In response to a June 11, 2007, termination letter, LAVALLIE wrote a letter indicating his willingness to enter into a repayment agreement.

When interviewed by law enforcement on December 8, 2008, LAVALLIE admitted that he forged the Housing Department Director's signature on the time sheets for December 2006 through May 2007, but claimed that the director had signed the time sheets for October and November of 2006.

LAVALLIE received eight TANF checks, each in the amount of $442, between October 2006 and May 2007. The penalty for failing to comply with the work participation requirement is loss of the adult portion of the benefit, for the adult who violates the work participation requirement. In this case, that portion was $89 per check, for a total of $712.

LAVALLIE faces possible penalties of 1 year in prison, a $100,000 fine and 1 year supervised release.

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.



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