Four former or current leaders of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe southeast of Pierre, including former tribal Chairwoman Roxanne Sazue, were arrested Thursday on federal charges of embezzling tribal funds.
The four — Roland Robert Hawk, Sr., Francine Maria Middletent, Jacquelyn Ernestine Pease, and Sazue — were in the Hughes County Jail in Pierre Thursday night and scheduled for initial appearances in federal court on Friday, July 12.
According to federal court documents filed Wednesday July 9, U.S. Attorney Ronald Parsons says a grand jury charged that since at least March 2014 (but possibly earlier) until about February 2019, Sazue, Hawk, Middletent and Pease “did embezzle, steal, willfully misapply, willfully permit to be misapplied, and convert to their own use more than $1,000 in monies, funds, credits, goods, assets and other property belonging to the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe . . . and did aid and abet each other in committing the offense. . .”
If convicted, they each face a possible maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine; and three years of supervised probation.
The four are slated to appear at 10 a.m., Friday, July 12, in federal court in Pierre.
Roxanne Sazue was elected chairwoman of the Crow Creek Tribal Council in April 2014 and served two years and did not seek re-election, according to news reports.
She remains a noted Indian leader in the state.
In August, 2018, U.S. Attorney Parsons, in a news release about the 13th annual conference on Violence Against Women Tribal Consultation in the Sioux Falls Convention Center, mentioned Roxanne Sazue as one of several tribal leaders who made comments and provided testimony.
Middletent, according to her social media posts, tribal online documents and news stories, has been human resources officer for the tribe and finished a two-year term on the seven-member Crow Creek tribal council in April 2018.
She also was convicted 25 years ago of embezzling from the tribe.
Roland Hawk Sr. also completed a two-year term on the tribal council in April 2018 and is in the middle of another two-year term that ends April 2020.
According to an online document from the tribal council asking for proposals for an auditing firm to review the tribal’s financial statements in 2015, Middletent then was tribal finance officer and Hawk was treasurer.
In September 1994, Middletent, then 31, pleaded guilty in federal court to embezzling more than $50,000 from the Crow Creek tribe’s liquor store in Fort Thompson while she worked in the financial office of the tribe, according to news reports and federal court documents.
In April, Hawk was charged in federal court with three counts of sexual assault on a young female tribal member.
Hawk, 50, pleaded not guilty to the charges in federal court in Pierre on April 16. The case has been continued, or postponed, until later this month, to give him more time to prepare his defense, according to court documents.
Hawk was released to the custody of his mother, with one of the conditions of his release being that he maintain his employment as tribal treasurer, as well as wearing a GPS bracelet.
In April, Tribal Chairman Lester Thompson said in a statement that Hawk was placed on leave until “there is a final disposition of this matter.” Hawk would assist in his duties as treasurer but would not have authority to sign or issue checks, Thompson said in April. Hawk earlier had been charged in Las Vegas with sexual crimes against the sister of the woman he’s charged with assaulting in Fort Thompson.
On Thursday, Chairman Thompson attended a meeting in Fort Pierre of tribal leaders from several tribes across the Great Plains and did not return a call to the Capital Journal about Thursday’s arrests.
The Crow Creek Indian Reservation is in parts of Hughes, Buffalo and Hyde counties along the east bank of the Missouri River, stretching from about 30 miles southeast of Pierre to about 30 miles north of Chamberlain, just across the river from the Lower Brule Indian Reservation. The reservation headquarters at Fort Thompson is 60 miles southeast of Pierre.
About half of the reservation’s population of 2,225 is made up of enrolled Crow Creek members; total tribal enrollment is estimated at more than 3,500, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
A tribal source told the Capital Journal several other tribal leaders were expected to be arrested in connection with the alleged embezzlement. But federal court officials said they could not comment on the case beyond what the indictment of the four people charged contains.