Former Navajo Nation lawmakers sentenced for misuse of funds

Former Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize. Photo from Facebook

A slew of former delegates to the Navajo Nation Council were sentenced on Wednesday for misusing a general welfare fund.

Former Council Speaker Johnny Naize, who lost his seat as a result of the case, was among those who admitted he misused the discretionary fund, which was set up to help tribal citizens in need. He agreed to pay $36,550 in restitution, most of which will be paid in cash and the rest through community service, The Farmington Daily-Times reported.

According to the paper, Naize doled out $36,550 from the fund to help fellow delegates fulfill financial requests from their family members. Those lawmakers in turn awarded similar amounts to help Naize's family.

In total, 13 former council delegates, along with two former staffers, were sentenced on Wednesday, The Navajo Times reported. All are required to serve probation and pay some restitution for their involvement, according to the paper.

The proceeding appears to put an end to the long-running saga, which began in late 2011. At one point, nearly every member of the council, which at the time had 88 members, was implicated.

Most of the cases were resolved with settlements or dismissals but 17 proceeded to the tribal court phase, according to a July 21, 2015, press release from the outside law firm that was tasked as the special prosecutor for the Navajo Nation. Of those, 12 former delegates pleaded guilty or entered no contest pleas.

Three former delegates opted for trials. One was found guilty at trial while two others pleaded guilty before their respective trials began.

The final two of the 17 cases would appear to be those of the former legislative staffers.

According to the special prosecutor, the 17 cases involved $843,535 in misused funds.

Read More on the Story:
Judge sentences former delegates in slush fund case (The Navajo Times 8/25)
Former Navajo officials sentenced in court (The Farmington Daily-Times 8/25)

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