Former Omaha Tribal Council Members and Employees Sentenced
United States Attorney Joe Kelly announced today that former Omaha Tribal Council members Rodney Morris, (age 64), Forrest Aldrich (age 68) and Tillie Aldrich (age 49), and former Omaha Tribe employees Jessica Webster (age 48) and Barbara Freemont (age 66) were sentenced by United States District Court Judge Robert F. Rossiter, Jr., for their convictions of one count of conversion and misapplication of funds of a health care benefit program in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 669. Each of these defendants were sentenced to five years of probation and were ordered to perform 200 hours of community service. In addition, these defendants were to pay restitution in the amount they each received. Rodney Morris, Forrest Aldrich and Tille Aldrich were ordered to pay $13,404.44 apiece while Barbara Freemont and Jessica Webster were ordered to pay $89,000 apiece.
According to the Indictment and Plea Agreements, the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska had filed Contract Disputes Act claims against the Indian Health Service (IHS), an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. These claims were filed in 2005 and 2012, and concerned unpaid contract support costs covering the period of 1995-2011. The total amount of the claims was approximately $8.9 million. The Indictment alleges that the defendants converted and misapplied funds of a health care benefit program by paying and causing to be paid bonuses or incentives to themselves and several other tribal employees on account of the claim filings. These bonuses or incentives were paid in October of 2012 even though the claims against the Indian Health Service were not resolved and paid until late 2015. Funds used to pay the bonuses came from carryover funds from the fiscal year 2012 contract with IHS. These funds were supposed to be used for providing health care to members of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska through the Carl T. Curtis Health Education Center.
Four other former tribal council members have pleaded guilty and will be sentenced later in October. These council members are Amen Sheridan, Doran Morris, Jr., Mitchell Parker, and Jeff Miller.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services.