Saturday, May 11, 2013

2 South Dakota Women Sentenced In $364K Tribal Embezzlement Case; Gambling Involved

From the Aberdeen News on 5.9.13:

The final two people involved in a tribal district embezzlement-related case in the Sisseton area were sentenced Thursday in federal court in Aberdeen.

Tammie Strutz, 52, was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison by Judge Charles Kornmann. Jacqueline Wanna, 67, was sentenced to five years probation and six months of house arrest.

Both women have to help make $345,965 in restitution for the stolen money. And both have to pay $100 special assessments, which they have already done.

Strutz and Wanna previously pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting misapplication of funds from an Indian tribal organization.

The women were elected officers of the Heipa District of the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Oyate when they and two other former officers embezzled the nearly $350,000 from the district between January 2007 and January 2009. They did so by issuing themselves checks for service to which they weren't entitled.

Wanna was the district's vice chairwoman. Strutz was the treasurer. While being sentenced, both women apologized for their actions.
Previously, Lloyd LaBelle Jr., 53, the former chairman, pleaded guilty to the same charge and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. And Charlene Wanna, 61, the former secretary, was found guilty by a jury of the same charge and sentenced to 33 months in prison. They must also help make restitution. Charlene Wanna and Jacqueline Wanna are sisters. Charlene Wanna is appealing her conviction.

Wright said that Strutz and Charlene Wanna concocted the plan to steal district money and talked LaBelle and Jacqueline Wanna into going along with it.

Kornmann said he was not impressed with LaBelle's behavior in the case because the former chairman wouldn't admit to involvement during many of the proceedings.

The judge read the amounts each person stole:
  • Strutz: $122,100
  • Charlene Wanna: $93,465
  • Jacqueline Wanna: $77,000
  • LaBelle: $53,400
Strutz admitted she gambled away the money she stole.

Sometimes, the four people charged in the case would meet at a casino, issue the checks and immediately cash them, Kornmann has said. He said each time they wrote an improper check was a crime, though the four were only charged with one count each.

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