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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of South Dakota

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 26, 2020

Six Former Tribal Officials Plead Guilty to Embezzlement from an Indian Tribal Organization and Aiding and Abetting

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 all six of the former Crow Creek Sioux Tribe councilmembers charged in the Superseding Indictment have now pleaded guilty to embezzling tribal funds, including two former Chairs of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe.  All of the defendants were charged in federal court for their respective conduct involving Embezzlement & Theft from an Indian Tribal Organization, and Aiding and Abetting.

The final defendant pleaded guilty on March 25, 2020, when Brandon Sazue appeared before U.S. District Judge Roberto A. Lange and pled guilty to the embezzlement and theft charge contained in the Superseding Indictment.

“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 the Superseding Indictment, in about March 2014 through February 2019, Roland Robert Hawk, Sr., Francine Maria Middletent, Roxanne Lynette Sazue, Jacquelyn Ernestine Pease, and Brandon Sazue embezzled, stole, willfully misapplied, willfully permitted to misapplied, and converted to their own use over $1,000 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 maximum penalties for each defendant upon conviction are as follows:  5 years imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine; 3 years of supervised release; $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund; and restitution may be ordered.  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 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.

Topic(s): 
Indian Country Law and Justice
Component(s): 
Updated March 26, 2020