Former Makah Tribal Leader Sentenced to Prison for Embezzlement of Tribal Funds
Used Tribal Council Credit Card for Personal Expenses
A former member of the Makah Tribal Council was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to six months in prison for embezzlement of tribal funds, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. RYLAND CHAD BOWECHOP, 38, of Bellingham, Washington pleaded guilty in February 2016, admitting that between June of 2010 and July 2014 he used a Makah tribal credit card for his personal expenses including cash advances at casinos. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton noted that this was a serious offense committed by a Tribal leader who was supposed to be looking out for the best interest of the tribe.
“Not only did this defendant steal $30,000 from his own tribe, but he betrayed the trust of the people he was supposed to serve,” said U. S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “The loss of funds is significant, but can be remedied. The loss of trust has impacts that are much harder to repair.”
According to the plea agreement and other records in the case, BOWECHOP was elected to the Makah Tribal Council in 2009 after working in the Tribal Planning Department for many years. As a Councilmember, BOWECHOP was provided a credit card to pay for his Council-related travel expenses. BOWECHOP illegally used the card for personal expenses and to withdraw cash at casinos. The amount of fraudulent charges is estimated to be $30,000. BOWECHOP is required to pay $30,000 in restitution to the tribe.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the Neah Bay Department of Public Safety. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney J. Tate London.