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Press Release

Chicago Illinois Man Sentenced To 30 Months In Prison For Conspiracy To Commit Wire Fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Michigan

          GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten today announced that Britan Douglas Groom, 66, of Chicago, Illinois, has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud causing losses to the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of over $1.1 million.  U.S. District Judge Robert J. Jonker also ordered Groom to spend 3 years on supervised release, to pay restitution of $1,124,292.68, and to forfeit $302,052.00, representing proceeds he personally received from his fraud.

          “This fraudulent scheme hurt every member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. “Instead of using the funds for the benefit of all tribal members, Groom and his co-defendant lied to the tribe and used the money for their personal benefit. My office is committed to holding fraudsters fully accountable for their crimes.”  

          Groom pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. From December 2015 to December 2016, Groom’s codefendant and friend, Chester Randall Dunican, served as the CEO of GTB LLC, a tribal entity focused on the development of economic opportunities for the benefit of all members of the Tribe. Dunican represented to the Tribe that he obtained exclusive distributorship rights with a proprietary water filtration company, R.O. Distributors, and that the Tribe would benefit by investing in R.O. Distributors and leasing water coolers that utilized this proprietary technology to various businesses in Michigan and Florida.  In reality, R.O. Distributors was a shell company created and controlled by Dunican and Groom. 

          The Tribe invested nearly a million dollars in R.O. Distributors. Dunican directed other individuals to send most of the Tribe’s investment to another shell company, Evergreen Distributors LLC, before that entity transferred over $700,000.00 of the proceeds to the personal bank accounts of Groom and Dunican. Dunican then told the Tribe that he expected the business to grow and needed additional funding to continue acquiring inventory. When the Tribe resisted, Dunican told the Tribe that a company named High Sierra Distributors, LLC, acquired R.O. Distributors and that High Sierra was a multi-billion-dollar business that could expand the water filtration business nationwide. Dunican asked Groom to recruit someone to pretend to be a corporate representative of High Sierra at a meeting with the Tribe to pitch the additional $2 million in funding. Groom recruited a friend from Illinois who did attend the meeting pretending to be a corporate official of High Sierra. Shortly after the meeting, and before any additional funds were distributed, the Tribe discovered that this individual was actually a schoolteacher from Illinois, uncovered the fraud scheme, and fired Dunican.

          “This defendant knowingly defrauded and stole money from people who trusted him to act in their best interest,” said James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “His behavior – and the behavior of his co-defendant – is a betrayal of the entire Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. The FBI will continue to investigate these types of fraud and hold criminals who commit them accountable.” 

          A sentencing hearing for co-defendant Chester Randall Dunican is scheduled at the federal courthouse in Grand Rapids, Michigan on February 14, 2023, at 4 p.m., before United States District Judge Robert J. Jonker.

          The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Detroit Division, Lansing, and Traverse City offices. The FBI was assisted by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians Tribal Police Department and the IRS Criminal Investigation.  Assistant United States Attorney Ronald M. Stella prosecuted the case.


Updated January 30, 2023

Financial Fraud