Jury Finds Five Central South Dakota Women Guilty of Retaliating Against a Witness
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 that five individuals from Central South Dakota were found guilty for Conspiracy to Retaliate Against a Witness, following a four-day jury trial in Pierre, South Dakota. The verdict was returned the evening of November 2, 2018.
Tally Colombe, age 43, Fort Thompson, South Dakota; Elnita Rank, age 81, Fort Thompson, South Dakota; Kristal Hawk, age 58, Fort Thompson, South Dakota; Ronda Hawk, age 60, Fort Thompson, South Dakota; and Tiffany Monteau, age 43, Chamberlain, South Dakota, were found guilty for Conspiracy to Retaliate Against a Witness as a result of the trial. Stefen Monteau, age 26, Fort Thompson, South Dakota, was acquitted of the same charge at the same jury trial.
The charge carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison, and/or a $250,000 fine, 3 years of supervised release, and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. Restitution may also be ordered.
The defendants were indicted by a federal grand jury on February 6, 2018. The charge stems from an incident that occurred between September 8, 2017, and continuing through September 12, 2017, in Fort Thompson.
In June 2017, Colombe pled guilty to Wire Fraud and Program Fraud related to her prior crimes of defrauding Hunkpati Investments, where she served as Executive Director. She was using business debit cards to make personal purchases. By the Fall of 2017, Colombe was facing sentencing on those charges, when the victim, who also later worked for Hunkpati Investments, contacted law enforcement authorities to report continuing program fraud. On September 19, 2017, the victim testified at a sentencing hearing in federal court.
Between September 8, 2017 and September 12, 2017, Tally Colombe, Elnita Rank, Kristal Hawk, Ronda Hawk, and Tiffany Monteau conspired to knowingly take harmful action against this witness, in an attempt to retaliate against the individual for providing truthful information relating to the commission and possible commission of a federal offense, namely program fraud and wire fraud to law enforcement. The retaliation included interfering with the lawful employment and livelihood of the witness when Elnita Rank, Kristal Hawk, Ronda Hawk, and Tiffany Monteau went to Hunkpati Investments and forcibly removed the victim from her office, and blocked her from performing her work.
Colombe was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending sentencing. The four other defendants were released on conditions pending sentencing, the dates of which have not been set.
The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services, Crow Creek Agency also responded to the incident. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael J. Elmore and Ann Hoffman prosecuted the case.
The case was brought as part of 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 United States 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 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.