The administrative building of the Omaha Tribe in Walthill, Nebraska. Photo: Ali Eminov

Omaha Tribe theft case results in guilty pleas from all defendants

An investigation into the theft of funds from the Omaha Tribe has resulted in guilty pleas from all nine defendants.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Nebraska announced the charges two years ago this month. They said eight current and former leaders of the tribe, plus one employee, "converted and misapplied" a total of $388,792.44 by issuing themselves bonuses and other payments from a tribal self-determination contract.

According to court filings, the defendants claimed the money came from the tribe's share of contract support costs settlement with the Indian Health Service. But federal prosecutors pointed out that the funds were misused in 2012 -- three years before the Ramah settlement was announced.

Since then, all of the defendants have admitted guilt to various charges. Former council member Rodney Morris, 64, and former employee Barbara Freemont, 65, were the first to be sentenced, The Sioux City Journal reported.

Both were placed on probation, the paper reported, and ordered to pay restitution at a sentencing hearing on Friday. Morris already paid $13,404.44, according to court records, while Freemont is on the hook for $89,000.

The remaining defendants -- former council members Forrest Aldrich, Tillie Aldrich, Doran Morris Jr., Jessica Webster-Valentino, Mitchell Parker and Amen Sheridan and current council member Jeff Miller -- are now waiting to be sentenced, the paper reported.

According to the September 2016 indictment, Freemont and Webster-Valentino received the largest payments of $86.692.92 from the tribe's health funds. Miller received $40,213.32, while Sheridan, Rodney Morris, Doran Morris, Jr., Aldrich, Parker and Aldrich each received $13,404.44.

Other employees of the Carl T Curtis Health Education Center on the reservation also received payments. They were only identified in the indictment by their initials.

Read More on the Story
2 former Omaha tribal officials sentenced for misuse of funds (The Sioux City Journal September 7, 2018)

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