A federal judge in Pierre this week sentenced two more former officials of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe in a case in which six tribal officials have admitted embezzling about $1 million from the tribe’s bank accounts.
U.S. District Judge Roberto Lange on Monday sentenced Roxanne Sazue, former chairwoman of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe at Fort Thompson, to five months in custody and two years of supervised probation for being part of the embezzlement scheme.
Lange also ordered Sazue, who is 63, to pay $43,300 in restitution. That’s about what Sazue admitted stealing for herself.
Also on May 18, Lange sentenced Tina Grey Owl, a former elected councilmember of the tribe, to 10 months in custody and two years of supervised probation for being part of the scheme that brought Grey Owl about $192,300 in stolen funds. Grey Owl, who is 64, must pay restitution but the exact amount will be determined by July 18, Lange said. Last year when Grey Owl pleaded guilty, she said she took more than $95,000 for herself.
Grey Owl was the first of the six to plead guilty, which she did in August 2019. As part of her plea deal, she named four of the other five as confederates in the scheme. Grey Owl did not mention Roxanne Sazue in her account of the crimes, according to court documents.
The sentencing of the two women leaves only former tribal chairman Brandon Sazue to be sentenced in the scheme in which the six admitted that over five years, from about March 2014 to about February 2019, they stole about $1 million from tribal checking accounts.
Brandon Sazue is 46 and the nephew of Roxanne Sazue.
The six had access to the tribe’s money through their tribal leadership positions and/or their work work in the tribe’s finance office.
Lange first sentenced three of them on May 4 in federal court in Pierre:
Roland Hawk Sr., 51, former elected treasurer of the tribe, was sentenced to 42 months in prison and ordered to pay $325,762.50 in restitution; he had admitted taking $250,000 to $550,000 in his plea deal;
Francine Middletent, 55, former council member, was sentenced to 30 months of imprisonment and to pay restitution of $273,817.55; she had admitted taking at least $150,000 but not more than $250,000 in her plea agreement; and
Jacqueline Pease, 34, was sentenced to three years of supervised probation and ordered to pay $74,100 in restitution; Pease was the only one of the six who had not been an elected tribal leader. She had admitted taking from $40,000 to $95,000, according to court documents.
Pease worked in the finance office where Hawk was the supervisor and Middletent was the chief financial officer, said U.S. Attorney Ron Parsons in a news release Tuesday announcing the new sentencings by Lange on Monday.
According to court documents, Pease last fall said Hawk was her supervisor while he was tribal treasurer and she was responsible for drafting and issuing the checks drawn from the tribal bank account.
“These checks were drafted to (Pease) and her co-defendants,” Pease said in her statement about her guilty plea.
Pease said she “was acting at the direction and behest of Hawk and the other council members who exercised authority over the account.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Jehangiri prosecuted the case.
On Monday, Grey Owl, represented by federal public defender Jana Miner, and Roxanne Sazue, represented by Pierre attorney Lindsey Riter-Rapp, received “split sentences.”
Grey Owl must spend five months in a facility designated by the federal Bureau of Prisons and five months in home confinement.
Sazue must spend one month in a facility chosen by the feds and four months of her supervised probation in home confinement, according to court documents.
Lange ordered both women to report to federal marshals on June 30 to begin their sentences.
Lange ordered Roxanne Sazue to make restitution payments from her inmate trust account while in custody and then in monthly payments of $700 beginning 60 days after her release from custody.
Grey Owl’s restitution amount will be determined on July 18, Lange said, according to court documents.
Brandon Sazue, the final one to reach a plea agreement with the feds when he inked a deal in March, admitted receiving $15,000 in embezzled funds.
He is slated to be sentenced June 16 in Pierre.
Each of the six faced a charge that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
All have remained free while awaiting disposition of their cases, except Hawk, who has been in jail in Pierre and elsewhere in the state since early last year on federal charges of sexually abusing two young women, one under the age of 16 in 2019. Charges in that case carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 35 years, but that case had been postponed until the embezzlement case was complete. Hawk was charged last year with three counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a young adult woman on three occasions without her consent in 2018 in South Dakota; and one count of aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact against girl who was 12 to 15 years old during a summer 2019 South Dakota incident.
He pleaded not guilty and has been granted several postponements for the sake of his defense, the most recent in March, when Lange continued his case to include deadlines for several pre-trial motions and other possible filings in June and a jury trial slated for June 30 in Pierre.
A year ago, Hawk had retained Sioux Falls attorney Clint Sargent to defend him against the sex crime charges.
But in July 2019, as the embezzlement case became news, Sargent asked Judge Lange to allow him to withdraw from defending Hawk, giving reasons.
Hawk “is now facing multiple active felony cases” in federal court in the state, and the tribal government had indefinitely suspended Hawk, without pay, from his job as tribal treasurer, so Hawk “is financially unable to meet the obligations of his representation agreement with counsel,” Sargent told Lange in his motion to withdraw. Sargent said Hawk agreed with the motion and asked for Lange to appoint an attorney to defend him.
Lange agreed and in late July appointed Pierre attorney Jeromy Pankratz to defend Hawk in the sex crimes case.
The Crow Creek Indian Reservation’s northwest corner is about 45 miles southeast of Pierre and continues on along the east side of the Missouri River’s Lake Sharp, comprising about 300,000 acres, or about 470 square miles. The tribal government’s headquarters at Fort Thompson is a 60-mile drive from Pierre.
About one-third of the tribe’s 3,500 enrolled members live in the reservation, which has a total population of about 2,200, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Tribal Chairman Lester Thompson Jr. told the Capital Journal last year the embezzlement put the tribal government in dire straits and that it likely would have to lay off employees.