Two more plead guilty to theft from tribal credit program

Billings, Montana (AP) July 2010

Two former Fort Peck tribal employees pleaded guilty during July to their roles in the theft of $1 million from a credit program.

Evadna Running Bear and Angelita Headdress, both of Poplar, acknowledged in federal court they stole thousands of dollars from the tribe and conspired to obstruct a federal audit. The 70-year-old Running Bear and the 28-year-old Headdress are the fourth and fifth of six people to plead guilty in the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl Rostad said Running Bear was a lead accounting technician in the tribe’s Credit Department when she was fired in July 2009. She was the primary loan collector for the program.

Headdress, who also was an accounting technician when she was dismissed in July 2009, was responsible for posting loan payments.

The defendants were accused of embezzling money from the Fort Peck Credit Program and trying to hide the theft by altering computer information and replacing their names on loans with those of deceased tribal members. The scheme ran from August 1999 until May 2009.

Rostad said 184 checks totaling $181,234 from the Credit Program were payable to Running Bear during the 10-year period. Running Bear also acknowledged she had a role in and personally benefited from 30 short-term loans totaling $42,434 issued in the names of her children and grandchildren. In addition, she got a $40,233 long-term loan and had not made payment on an outstanding balance of $12,502 since 2005.

Investigators say Headdress received 69 checks totaling $48,117 from the Credit Program, and another $141,705 in loans were issued to her immediate family.

A plea agreement says the government will seek $189,822 in restitution from Headdress and not charge any family member receiving less than $10,000 from the program. Headdress disputed having any role in getting fraudulent loans for her family.

Prosecutors said in Running Bear’s plea agreement they will not charge her son and granddaughter, both of whom received money. The deal did not address restitution.

Sentencing for both women is scheduled for Oct. 21.