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Press Release

Former Swinomish Police Chief Sentenced to 16 Months in Prison for Stealing Tribal Funds

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Abused Position of Trust to Enrich Himself

The former Police Chief of the Swinomish Tribe was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 16 months in prison and two years of supervised release for theft of tribal funds, announced United States Attorney Annette L. Hayes.  THOMAS J. SCHLICKER, 57, of Stanwood, Washington, served as the Swinomish Police Chief from 1997 until September 2014, when his employment was terminated.  SCHLICKER stole more than $30,000 that belonged to the tribe.  At sentencing U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour called the crime “a breach of trust” and ordered SCHLICKER to pay $17,849 for a total restitution to the Swinomish tribe of more than $33,000.

“This defendant betrayed the trust placed in him by the Swinomish Tribe,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.  “As the Chief of Police for the tribe for nearly 25 years, his job was to protect the tribe – not steal from it.  We will continue to work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Tribes in Western Washington to ensure that those who embezzle funds are identified and held to account.”

“It is a sad day for our community.  We entrusted him for 25 years… We trusted him and he betrayed our trust,” Swinomish Tribal Chairman Brian Cladoosby told the court.  “People need to know that when they come to work in Indian Country… that this is not acceptable.”

According to the plea agreement, between 2008 and 2014 SCHLICKER set up a secret bank account in the name of the Swinomish Police Department, without the knowledge of the tribal accounting department.  SCHLICKER then deposited checks made out to the tribal police into the secret account and withdrew the proceeds in cash, which he then used for his own purposes.  SCHLICKER also used the Tribe’s Chevron/Texaco credit card to purchase gas for his and his family members’ personal vehicles.  The total loss to the Swinomish Tribe is $33,622.

In asking for a sentence at the high end of the guidelines range, prosecutors noted the crime was a repeated betrayal of trust by a 20+ year employee.  “This is far from an isolated misjudgment during a time of weakness.  Rather, this was a calculated offense that occurred over five years and involved 38 fraudulent deposits and 37 fraudulent withdrawals, for a total of 75 fraudulent transactions on the Secret Account alone.  Each of these transactions was a separate decision to commit a crime, as was each decision to misuse the tribal gas card or submit a fraudulent reimbursement request,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.

The case was investigated by the FBI, the Washington State Patrol, and the Swinomish Tribe.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Seth Wilkinson and Ye-Ting Woo.

Updated November 10, 2015

Public Corruption
Financial Fraud
Indian Country Law and Justice