Former Tribal Chair Sentenced for Embezzlement Scheme
Defendants 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 Chairman of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe was sentenced for his role in a scheme involving the embezzlement of tribal funds by former elected tribal officials. Chief U.S. District Judge Roberto A. Lange presided over the sentencing hearing on June 16, 2020.
Brandon Sazue, age 46, the former elected chair of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $17,330 in restitution and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.
Five other defendants were previously sentenced for their respective roles in the embezzlement scheme. Roland Robert Hawk, Sr., 51, former elected treasurer of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, was sentenced to 42 months imprisonment and ordered to pay $325,762.50 in restitution. Francine Maria Middletent, 55, a former elected councilmember of the Tribe, was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment and ordered to pay $273,817.55 in restitution. Tina Grey Owl, age 64, a former elected councilmember of the Tribe, was sentenced to a split sentence of 10 months imprisonment and ordered to pay restitution in an approximate amount of $190,000. Roxanne Lynette Sazue, age 61, a former elected chair of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, was sentenced to a split sentence of 5 months imprisonment and ordered to pay $43,300 in restitution. Jacqueline Ernestine Pease, 34, was sentenced to 3 years of probation and ordered to pay $74,100 in restitution and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. Pease was not an elected official, yet she worked in the Tribe’s Finance Office where Hawk was the overall supervisor and where Middletent worked as Chief Financial Officer.
According to court documents, in about March 2014 through February 2019, Roland Robert Hawk, Sr., Francine Maria Middletent, Roxanne Lynette Sazue, Jacquelyn Ernestine Pease, Tina Grey Owl, and Brandon Sazue embezzled, stole, willfully misapplied, willfully permitted to misapplied, and converted to their own use approximately $1,000,000 of monies, funds, credit, goods, assets, and other property belonging to the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe.
During times relevant to each defendant’s case, Brandon Sazue served as Chair of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Hawk served as the elected Treasurer of the tribe, Roxanne Sazue was also chair, and Middletent and Grey Owl were elected councilpersons. When not serving in their respective leadership positions, all defendants, except for Brandon Sazue, worked for Hawk in the Tribe’s Finance Office. In their respective leadership roles and employment positions, the defendants had the access and opportunity to the funds that were embezzled from the tribe.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy R. Jehangiri prosecuted the cases.
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; and 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.