Former tribal chair and former councilmember sentenced for embezzlement scheme

 

Defendants prosecuted as part of The Guardians Project, a federal law enforcement initiative to combat corruption, fraud, and abuse in South Dakota

Date: May 19, 2020

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

Two former Crow Creek Sioux Tribe councilmembers were sentenced for their roles in an embezzlement scheme involving tribal funds. Chief U.S. District Judge Roberto A. Lange presided over the sentencing hearings.

Tina Grey Owl a former elected councilperson of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, was sentenced to a split sentence of ten months of custody, with five months to be served at a facility designated by the Bureau of Prisons and five months to be served on home confinement. Grey Owl was ordered to pay restitution, although the total will be determined at a later date, and to pay $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. The total loss associated with Grey Owl's embezzlement, which was accepted by the court, was approximately $192,300. Following the term of custody, she will serve two years of supervised release.

Roxanne Lynette Sazue the former elected chair of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, was sentenced to a split sentence of five months custody, with one month to be served at a facility designated by the Bureau of Prisons and four months to be served on home confinement. She was also ordered to pay $43,300 in restitution and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. Following the term of custody, she will serve two years of supervised release.

Three other defendants were previously sentenced for their respective roles in the embezzlement scheme. Roland Robert Hawk, Sr. the former elected treasurer of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, was sentenced to forty-two months of imprisonment and ordered to pay $325,762.50 in restitution. Francine Maria Middletent a former elected councilmember of the Tribe, was sentenced to thirty months of imprisonment, and ordered to pay $273,817.55 in restitution and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. Jacqueline Ernestine Pease was sentenced to three years of probation, and ordered to pay $74,100 in restitution and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. Pease was not an elected official, yet she worked in the Tribe's Finance Office, where Hawk was the overall supervisor and where Middletent worked as Chief Financial Officer.

According to court documents, in about March 2014 through February 2019, Roland Robert Hawk, Sr., Francine Maria Middletent, Roxanne Lynette Sazue, Jacquelyn Ernestine Pease, Tina Grey Owl, and Brandon Sazue embezzled, stole, willfully misapplied, willfully permitted to misapplied, and converted to their own use approximately $1,000,000 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.

Brandon Sazue, the sixth and final defendant pending sentencing, will be sentenced on June 16, 2020.

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: Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division; 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; U.S. Postal Inspector Service; U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General.