Published July 10, 2017
PIERRE, SOUTH DAKOTA – Tally Colombe, a member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, pleaded guilty pleaded guilty to wire fraud and federal program fraud in federal court in Pierre, South Dakota.
Colombe served as the executive director of Hunkpati Investments, a non-profit organization based on the Crow Creek Reservation that has a mission to support the financial stability of individuals, families, and businesses on the reservation through education, access to capital, and entrepreneurial development.
According to plea documents filed with federal court, beginning on or about June 1, 2015, through and including October 1, 2016, in the District of South Dakota and elsewhere, Tally Colombe, having devised a scheme and artifice to defraud by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises, caused to be transmitted by means of electronic wire communications in interstate commerce, writings, signs, signals, pictures and sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme and artifice to defraud.
It was part of the scheme and artifice to defraud that the defendant, while serving as the executive director of Hunkpati Investments, used a debit card belonging to Hunkpati Investments to make personal purchases from several businesses, all without knowledge and authorization from Hunkpati Investments.
Beginning on or about June 1, 2015, through and including October 1, 2016, Colombe, as an agent of Hunkpati Investments, which was an organization and agency that received in each of the calendar years of 2015 and 2016 benefits in excess of $10,000 under a federal program involving a grant, contract, subsidy, loan, guarantee, insurance, and other form of federal assistance, did knowingly and intentionally embezzle, steal, obtain by fraud, and otherwise without authority knowingly convert to the use of persons other than the rightful owner, and intentionally misapply property worth at least $5,000 which was owned by and was under the care, custody and control of Hunkpati Investments.
Hunkpati Investments (Hunkpati), located in Fort Thompson, South Dakota, is a Native Community Development Financial Institution established to provide financial opportunities to stimulate economic development on the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation.
Hunkpati is governed by a Board of Directors (Board). Defendant served as an agent, that is, executive director, of Hunkpati from May of 2015, to approximately November of 2016, and reported to the Board. Prior to becoming the Executive Director, Defendant also served on the Board as a Board Member. As Executive Director, Defendant was responsible for advising the Board on the financial status of Hunkpati as well as maintaining compliance for Hunkpati’s spending pursuant to the federal grant requirements.
The unlawful purchases, and therefore the wire transfers, were made without authorization from the Board. Defendant did not disclose the purchases to the Board. The amount of identified suspicious expenditures and embezzled funds totals at least $15,001. The amount of embezzled funds could be as high as approximately $90,912.04.
The investigation is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann M. Hoffman is prosecuting the case.
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This BBSNews article originally appeared on Native News Online.