Federal Jury Convicts Former Finance Manager of the Rocky Boy Health Clinic
GREAT FALLS – The former Finance Manager of the Rocky Boy Health Board Clinic in Box Elder, Theodora Ann Morsette, 60, was convicted of three felony counts of embezzlement and theft for taking over $156,000 in federal monies provided to the tribe for the operation and services of the Clinic. Judge Brian Morris of Great Falls set sentencing for April 20, 2015.
Morsette had worked in the Finance Office of the Clinic since 1994. The prosecution presented evidence that between 2010 and 2013, Morsette regularly accessed tribal coffers for payments over and above her $90,000 per year salary and authorized supplemental compensation package with the Chippewa Cree Tribe. Morsette received a base pay of $82,000 per year plus a retirement benefit of 11.5% plus a negotiated supplemental pay stipend from the tribe. Over the four year period reviewed by investigators, Morsette obtained an additional $156,493 in unauthorized overtime, double pay, severance pay [although she never severed her government service], unauthorized supplemental pay, and retirement advances. Morsette testified that she believed that she was entitled to the additional payments because she worked hard and the over-payments had been approved by her supervisor, Clinic CEO Fawn Tadios.
Tadios was indicted and convicted of embezzling tribal funds in June of 2014. Judge Morris sentenced Tadios to a year in prison on October 22, 2014. She has appealed her conviction and was released pending appeal by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Morsette has been released pending sentencing.
Prior to working at the Health Clinic’s Finance Office, Morsette had been a Bureau of Indian Affairs loan officer. She was indicted and convicted of embezzling $6,453 in 1994 and given a three year sentence of probation.
The guilty verdict is the latest in a series of prosecutions and convictions relating to public corruption, fraud, and theft in federal grants, contracts and programs in Indian Country brought by the investigators and prosecutors of the U.S. Attorney’s Guardians Project, an anti-corruption strike force created in 2011. The primary investigators in the Morsette case were the agents of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (HHS OIG), aided and supported by the HHS OIG’s Office of Audit Services, and agents of the Offices of Inspector General for Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Special Agent in Charge Gerald T. Roy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Kansas City Regional Office, stated “Our office will continue to bring those individuals to justice who defraud our programs for personal benefit and at the expense of those in need of assistance.”