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Press Release

Former Oglala Sioux Tribe President Convicted of Wire Fraud, Larceny, and Embezzlement

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Dakota

RAPID CITY - United States Attorney Alison J. Ramsdell announced that a jury has convicted Julian Bear Runner, age 38, of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, of six counts of Wire Fraud, one count of Larceny, and one count of Embezzlement and Theft from an Indian Tribal Organization following a three-day jury trial in federal district court in Rapid City, South Dakota. The verdict was returned on April 4, 2024.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in custody and/or a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, and a $800 special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. 

Bear Runner was indicted by a federal grand jury in September of 2022. 

Between January of 2019 and January of 2020, at Pine Ridge, Bear Runner, while acting in his capacity as President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, fraudulently submitted travel vouchers for official business travel and received payment for travel that he was not entitled to as he was not actually traveling. The evidence at trial showed that Bear Runner submitted multiple travel authorizations to different locations outside South Dakota, including New Mexico, Montana, Ohio, North Carolina, New York, and Arizona, claiming the need to travel for official business. As a result of those travel authorizations, Bear Runner received thousands of dollars in advance travel payments but did not go on the travel. Instead, Bear Runner cashed the checks at a casino, gambled, and stayed in local hotels.

“When government leaders abuse positions of power for personal financial gain, it’s the public that pays the price,” said Alison J. Ramsdell, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota. “In this case, Julian Bear Runner stole more than $80,000 from the Oglala Sioux Tribe, embezzling money that could have otherwise been used to improve life for those living throughout the Pine Ridge Reservation. We are grateful to our partners at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and the FBI for conducting a fulsome investigation of Bear Runner’s fraudulent activities and helping us secure today’s swift verdict.”

“HHS-OIG, along with our law enforcement partners, is committed to holding government leaders accountable,” said Linda Hanley, Special Agent in Charge at the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. “This official violated the trust of his duties by exploiting tribal funds for personal pursuits. HHS-OIG is committed to ensuring that all government funds are used for their intended purposes.”  

This case was investigated by the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Benjamin Patterson and Megan Poppen prosecuted the case.

A presentence investigation was ordered, and a sentencing date will be scheduled. The defendant was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

This 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: the FBI; 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; IRS Criminal Investigation; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and the U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General.

For additional information about the Guardians Project, please contact the U.S. 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 April 4, 2024

Financial Fraud
Indian Country Law and Justice