Man indicted in Utah Paiute Tribe theft case

Salt Lake City, Utah (AP) January 2011

A former economic development and trust resources director for Utah’s Paiute Tribe has pleaded not guilty to 26 felony charges alleging he skimmed $176,000 from tribal accounts.

Jeffery Charles Zander entered the plea last week in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.

Magistrate Judge Paul Warner set a March 21 trial date and assigned federal public defender Parker Douglas to represent Zander. Douglas did not immediately return a message last week.

Zander was indicted in December on 22 theft, three tax evasion and one money laundering charge.

If convicted, he faces a possible penalty of more than 120 years in prison and $600,000 in fines.

Federal prosecutors say Zander went to work for the Cedar City-area tribe in 1998 as a tribal planner. Two years later the Tribal Council appointed Zander the economic development director. He was also named the trust resources director and later the in-house attorney.

In the indictment, prosecutors say that as resources director, Zander applied for and handled Bureau of Indian Affairs grants to fuel comprehensive management plans for land-based tribal resources.

Prosecutors say Zander funneled money from the grants into his own bank account by creating a string of fictitious companies and then “billing” the tribe for services that were never provided.

The checks issued to Zander’s fake companies totaled about $176,000, the federal indictment states.

A check of Utah state court records shows Zander also has two outstanding cases pending in 5th District Court. The cases include a range of felony charges, including burglary, theft, forger and identity fraud. One case is scheduled for trial on Jan. 26.

It was not clear last week whether the state cases were also related to Zander’s work with tribes.

A telephone message left for Iron County prosecutor Troy Little was not immediately returned.