- Associated Press - Friday, February 28, 2014

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - The former director of a federally funded aid program on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation has pleaded guilty to embezzling almost $300,000 from the program to support her gambling addiction.

Sandra Marie Sanderville of Browning pleaded guilty Thursday to embezzlement and fraud charges during a hearing before U.S. District Judge Keith Strong in Great Falls. A sentencing date has not been set, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Sanderville, 58, was director of the tribe’s Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program from 2006 to 2010, during which the program received $12 million in federal funding.

Sanderville admitted she used various schemes to make overpayments to families, who then provided her with a cash kickback. Her scheme involved 16 to 20 program beneficiaries, including some who were ineligible for payments, court records said.

Prosecutors said Sanderville overpaid some recipients by adding children or grandchildren to the payment calculations, some real and others fabricated. She also failed to remove people from accounts when she knew they no longer lived in the household, court records said.

When the tribe began investigating the missing money, Sanderville tried to delete or destroy the files related to the fraudulent scheme. A backup computer file allowed investigators to re-create those transactions.

Sanderville told investigators she was gambling hundreds of dollars a week.