An aerial view of the Pine Ridge Hospital on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Image: Google Earth
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Former Indian Health Service executive indicted for accepting cash gift

A former top executive at an Indian Health Service hospital has been indicted in connection with a sex abuse scandal in South Dakota.

Wehnona Stabler, who is a citizen of the Omaha Tribe, allegedly accepted $5,000 in cash when she served as chief executive officer of the Pine Ridge Hospital on the Pine Ridge Reservation. She failed to report the gift as required by federal law, according to a redacted June 20 indictment.

Stabler may have had reason to hide the gift. According to the indictment, she was given the cash by Stanley Patrick Weber, a former pediatrician at the hospital who has been indicted on 10 counts of child sexual assault and rape.

Weber, who is non-Indian, is accused of abusing young patients at the hospital between 1998 and 2011. According to Joe Flood, who has reported extensively on the case on Medium, other employees repeatedly complained about him but IHS management -- which would have included Stabler as his boss -- did not fire him.

Although Weber at one point was suspended after he was "severely beaten by a patient in 2009," he was eventually reinstated and eventually promoted, Joe Flood reported. The alleged assailant was a tribal citizen who may have been a victim of abuse.

The Pine Ridge Hospital is part of the Great Plains Area, one of the worst-performing regions in the IHS. An unprecedented four facilities in the region -- including Pine Ridge -- have been sanctioned or threatened with sanctions for failing to provide adequate care to patients.

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has been investigating the Great Plains and Stabler even appeared at a June 2016 field hearing in Rapid City to discuss long-standing problems in the region. She has been working for her tribe's health center in Nebraska since January 2015 and she said she supported provisions in an IHS reform bill that would make it easier to remove troubled employees.

"As a former employee of IHS, I personally welcome - and my tribe welcomes - this language that fast tracks IHS’ authority to fire or demote underperforming employees," Stabler said of the bill, which did not become law during the last session of Congress. A new version has been reintroduced.

Stabler is due to make her first appearance in court on July 21. Weber was arrested in February but has yet to go trial -- he's seeking to suppress evidence taken from a home in Spearfish, according to a motion filed on June 19.

Weber apparently fears that some of the evidence may be used to accuse him of "International Sex Travel." Eight U.S. passports were found in the home, along with numerous travel documents and receipts, according to an inventory of seized property.

Weber is also practically outing his alleged victims in another filing. Even though federal prosecutors redacted their names, his attorney identified three by their initials in an attempt to subpoena information about their medical and personal histories.

Read More on the Story:
Pine Ridge Reservation Hospital Sexual Abuse Scandal Widens (Joe Flood 7/4)
Former Pine Ridge IHS hospital administrator indicted (The Sioux Falls Argus Leader 7/10)

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