Former Tribal Treasurer & Former Councilmember Sentenced to 42 and 30 Months, Respectively, 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 two former Crow Creek Sioux Tribe councilmembers and one former employee were sentenced for their roles in an embezzlement scheme involving tribal funds.
Roland Robert Hawk, Sr., 51, was the former elected treasurer of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. Hawk was sentenced to 42 months in federal prison, and ordered to pay $325,762.50 in restitution and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. Following his release from custody, Hawk will serve 3 years of supervised release. Hawk was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.
Francine Maria Middletent, 55, was a former elected councilmember of the same Tribe. Middletent was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison, and ordered to pay $273,817.55 in restitution and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. Following her release from custody, Middletent will serve 3 years of supervised release. Middletent was released on bond and ordered to report to the federal prison designed by the Bureau of Prisons at a later date.
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 worked in the Tribe’s Finance Office, where Hawk was the overall supervisor and where Middletent worked as Chief Financial Officer.
Chief U.S. District Judge Roberto A. Lange presided over each of the sentencing hearings. Chief Judge Lange called the embezzlement scheme “terrible” and “despicable,” stating that the crimes involved a high level of “intentionality.”
“Crow Creek citizens need to know that their government works and that theft and embezzlement will not be tolerated. This case should go a long way toward restoring that confidence,” said U.S. Attorney Parsons.
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. Between Hawk and Middletent, the tribe sustained a loss of nearly $700,000.
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 maximum penalties for each defendant upon conviction are as follows: 5 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, or both; 3 years, of supervised release; $ 100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund; and restitution may be ordered. Other than Hawk, all of the defendants were released on bond pending sentencing.
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 is prosecuting 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.