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Associated Press, Published May 10 2013

Dakotas tribal officials sentenced for embezzling

ABERDEEN, S.D. — The last two officials convicted of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux tribe in the Dakotas have been sentenced for their roles in the crime.

Jacqueline Wanna, 67, was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court in Aberdeen to six months of house arrest and five years of probation, the American News reported (http://bit.ly/YK2xAL ). Tammie Strutz, 52, was sentenced to two years in federal prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.

Wanna is the former vice chairwoman of the tribe's Heipa-Veblen district, and Strutz is the former treasurer. Both pleaded guilty earlier to a felony count of aiding and abetting misapplication of tribal funds.

Former district chairman Lloyd LaBelle Jr., 53, was sentenced earlier to 1½ years in prison. Former district secretary Charlene Wanna, 61, who is Jacqueline Wanna's sister, was sentenced earlier to 33 months, or nearly three years, behind bars. LaBelle pleaded guilty, while Charlene Wanna was convicted by a jury. She is appealing her conviction.

The defendants together also must pay nearly $346,000 in restitution. Authorities say Strutz stole the most money, at about $122,000, while Charlene Wanna took about $93,000, Jacqueline Wanna $77,000 and LaBelle about $53,000. Strutz admitted she gambled away the money she stole.

The four officials stole the money between January 2007 and January 2009, often meeting at a tribal casino to issue checks to themselves and immediately cash them, federal investigators said. The money was supposed to be used to benefit the young, elderly and disabled members of the district.

Strutz and Charlene Wanna concocted the plan to steal the money and talked LaBelle and Jacqueline Wanna into going along with the scheme, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Wright said.

Each of the defendants could have been sentenced to as much as five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Judge Charles Kornmann said he did not issue fines because he did not think the defendants would be able to pay them. He also expressed doubt the four will be able to pay the full restitution.


Information from: Aberdeen American News, http://www.aberdeennews.com

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.