Oregon Woman Sentenced for Embezzling Approximately $300,000 from a Tribal Organization in Alaska
Anchorage, Alaska – U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced today that an Oregon woman has been sentenced for embezzling approximately $300,000 from the Skagway Traditional Council, which is a federally recognized tribal organization.
Delia Commander, 64, of Oregon, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Gleason to serve 18 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Commander was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $297,731. Commander pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement from an Indian tribal organization.
According to court documents, from at least 2010 to 2014, Commander embezzled approximately $300,000 from the Skagway Traditional Council’s funds for her personal use. During that time, Commander was employed as the Tribal Administrator for the Village of Skagway, dba Skagway Traditional Council (“STC”), where she received $45,000 annually, plus benefits and free housing, as compensation. Commander was responsible for day-to-day operations of the tribe, including managing tribal housing, environmental and waste management, and managing finances for the STC tribal government, among other things. During each year of Commander’s tenure as Tribal Administrator for STC, the tribe received approximately $150,000 from Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for operating funds.
Commander embezzled the money by using the tribal credit card to make unauthorized cash advances at casinos and other locations, and by making unauthorized personal purchases with tribal funds. The unauthorized expenditures included paying for personal travel including a trip to Hawaii for herself and a family member, online university courses, personal credit card bills, personal vehicle maintenance, and personal shopping, among other things. Over time, the Tribal Council became suspicious of Commander because of her frequent travel and lack of financial documents provided to Council members. Commander resigned from STC in 2014 without prior notice, which is when her embezzlement was discovered.
At sentencing, Judge Gleason noted that such a large amount to be embezzled from such a small organization was an aggravating factor. The Judge also noted that the system of federal funding for tribal organizations relies heavily on trust, which Commander had violated.
The Department of Interior Office of Inspector General, assisted by the FBI, conducted the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of the case.