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Press Release

Contracting Company Owner Sentenced to 84 Months in Prison and Another Business Partner Charged for Roles in Bribery Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Dakota
Defendant Prosecuted as Part of The Guardians Project, a Federal Law Enforcement Initiative to Combat Corruption, Fraud, and Abuse in South Dakota

United States Attorney Ron Parsons announced today that a former contracting company owner was sentenced for his role in a bribery scheme. John Thomas German, Jr., age 37 of Peever, South Dakota, was sentenced to 84 months of imprisonment for a loss exceeding $465,000.  He was ordered to pay $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.  Following his release from custody, German will serve 3 years of supervised release.   U.S. District Judge Charles B. Kornmann presided over the sentencing hearing.

According to court documents, the Dakota Nations Development Corporation (“DNDC”) was an agency of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Sioux Tribe, a tribal government that received federal assistance in excess of $10,000 during the one-year period between October 1, 2017, and September 30, 2018.  At that time, Daniel Thomas White served as the Director of the DNDC.  White’s duties included, among other things, overseeing housing and construction projects of the DNDC.

DNDC established an entity called the SWO Elderly Village Limited Partnership.  The purpose of the entity was to obtain tax credit financing to build an elderly village complex on tribal land.  On April 22, 2016, SWO’s tribal council passed a resolution authorizing DNDC to pursue low-income housing tax credits for the elderly village complex.  The tribe also committed nearly $3,000,000 to the project.

German, along with two other partners, formed a business on December 15, 2016, called Tatanka Contracting.  On October 27, 2017, DNDC contracted with Tatanka Contracting to do the earthwork associated with the elderly village project.  The contract was for a guaranteed price of $1,070,740, although a change order increased the total of the contract to $1,129,679.

To secure the dirt work contract, German bribed White and White accepted the bribe.  Specifically, in November 2017, German corruptly gave, offered, and agreed to give money to Daniel Thomas White, intending to influence and reward White, whom was an agent of the Dakota Nations Development Corporation, in connection with a transaction and series of transactions of the Dakota Nations Development Corporation involving $5,000 or more.

White pleaded guilty to his role in the bribery scheme on August 24, 2020.  He will be sentenced by Judge Kornmann on May 24, 2021. 

Kevin Trio, age 58, a partner of Tatanka Contracting, was recently charged for Making Material False Statements to federal agents who were investigating the business dealings surrounding the Elderly Project.  Trio was also charged with Misprision of a Felony.  He made his appearance on October 21, 2020, before U.S. Magistrate Judge William D. Gerdes and entered a plea of not guilty.  The charges are merely accusations, and Trio is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.  He was released pending trial.

German was ordered to self-report to the U.S. Marshal’s Service or Bureau of Prisons to begin serving his term of imprisonment at a date to be determined. 

The investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy R. Jehangiri prosecuted the case.      

The case was brought pursuant to The Guardians Project, a federal law enforcement initiative to coordinate efforts between participating agencies, to promote citizen disclosure of public corruption, fraud, and embezzlement involving federal program funds, contracts, and grants, and to hold accountable those who are responsible for adversely affecting those living in South Dakota’s Indian country communities.  The Guardians Project is another step of federal law enforcement’s on-going efforts to increase engagement, coordination, and positive action on behalf of tribal communities.  Led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the participating agencies include:  Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Offices of Inspector General for the Departments of Interior, Health and Human Services, Social Security Administration, Agriculture, Transportation, Education, Justice, and Housing and Urban Development; Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division; U.S. Postal Inspector Service; U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General.

For additional information about The Guardians Project, please contact the United States Attorney’s Office at (605)330-4400.  To report a suspected crime, please contact law enforcement at the federal agency’s locally listed telephone number.

Updated November 4, 2020