- Associated Press - Friday, October 9, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Current and former officials of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate are facing federal charges for writing themselves checks for more than $50,000 from a tribal account for expenses that were not justified, according to an indictment filed this week in U.S. District Court in South Dakota.

The indictment charges the six officials with conspiracy, embezzlement and theft from an Indian tribal organization in connection with the scheme that authorities say happened between June 2010 and March 2013 on the reservation in South Dakota’s northeast corner. The individuals were executive board members of tribe’s Big Coulee District during the period when the alleged crimes happened, and at least three continue to work in tribal government.

The indictment names Carrie Godfrey, Gerald German Jr., Ann German, Calvin Max Sr., Gerald Heminger Jr. and Colette White as defendants. All but Ann German served on the district’s executive board during the time covered by the indictment. Ann German has been the district’s coordinator since approximately November 2008.

“The defendants wrote themselves checks from the District’s account, purportedly for home repair or emergency repair assistance payments,” according the indictment, but the assistance checks were not “properly supported” with a complete application and supporting documents. Authorities argue the defendants used the funds for their own purposes.

Federal authorities also accuse the defendants of writing themselves checks from the district’s account to help them cover their income tax liability incurred from the stipends they received as district executives. Those checks had not been authorized by the district.



In all, they are accused of defrauding the tribe of $54,237. The court case does not list defense attorneys who could comment on the charges.

District Secretary Leslie Heminger confirmed Thursday that Max and White are the district’s vice chairman and treasurer respectively. Max couldn’t be reached by phone. Neither Ann German nor White returned messages seeking comment.

In one of several instances described in the indictment, federal authorities say Godfrey and Heminger signed five district checks on Jan. 28, 2011. One check was payable to Godfrey in the amount of $4,944.69, while the four other checks payable to Gerald German, Ann German, Max and Heminger were in the amount of $5,000 each. Each check was purportedly issued for home repair assistance, according to the indictment.

A hearing in the case at the federal district courthouse in Aberdeen has not yet been scheduled.

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