- Associated Press - Thursday, April 14, 2016

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Three people have been indicted on felony charges stemming from a financial investigation into South Dakota’s GEAR UP college-readiness program, Attorney General Marty Jackley said Thursday.

Jackley’s office said an arraignment is scheduled in May for Dan Guericke, Stephanie Hubers and Stacy Phelps. The state filed charges last month against the three, who are associated with Mid-Central Educational Cooperative and the GEAR UP program.

The investigation was launched in September after Scott Westerhuis, who served as Mid-Central’s business manager, shot his wife, Nicole Westerhuis, and their four children, then set fire to their home and killed himself. Investigators believe Scott and Nicole Westerhuis, the assistant business manager, stole more than $1 million before their deaths.

The two also had ties to nonprofit organizations that received GEAR UP funding, including the American Indian Institute for Innovation, where they had financial oversight.

Authorities say Phelps, a former GEAR UP administrator who had been CEO of the American Indian Institute for Innovation, and Guericke, Mid-Central’s director, helped the Westerhuises attempt to avoid a potential audit of the nonprofit.

Guericke and Phelps are accused of backdating two contracts between Mid-Central and the American Indian Institute for Innovation in August 2015 before they were made available to the state Department of Legislative Audit.

Guericke is also accused of conspiring with Scott and Nicole Westerhuis to backdate contracts with other individuals.

Hubers, who was an employee of the cooperative, is accused of receiving more than $50,000 from the organization to which that she was not entitled or that she knew had been stolen.

An attorney for Hubers wasn’t immediately available for comment. An attorney for Guericke declined to comment, but said Guericke, who is on administrative leave, would enter a not guilty plea at the arraignment scheduled for May 2.

Dana Hanna, an attorney for Phelps, also said his client plans to plead not guilty. “We look forward to proving his innocence in a court of law,” Hanna said.

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