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

Omaha Tribe leaders and former leaders headed to trials for theft of federal funds

Eight current and former leaders, plus on employee, of the Omaha Tribe are headed to trials in connection with the theft of federal health funds.

The nine defendants have sought the dismissal of the charges against them but Judge Michael Nelson recommended the denial of their request on Wednesday, The Sioux City Journal reported. That same day, he granted a motion to sever the case into two trials, one for a group of defendants who are facing the same charges and the other for defendants who are facing additional charges.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Nebraska, the defendants, while serving on the tribal council, stole money from a self-determination contract with the Indian Health Service. They used the funds as "bonus or incentive payments," a September 2016 indictment alleged.

In seeking to dismiss the charges, the defendants attempted to justify their payments by noting the tribe secured a settlement with the IHS to resolve underpayments in the self-determination contract. The bonuses came from that settlement, they argued.

But federal authorities said the tribe didn't receive the contract support costs settlement until 2015. That was three years after they had paid themselves and certain employees a total of $388,972, The Sioux City Journal reported.

According to the indictment, Jessica Webster-Valentino and Barbara Freemont received the largest payments, of $86.692.92. They will be tried separately from the remaining six defendants: Jeff Miller, who received $40,213.32, and Amen Sheridan, Rodney Morris, Doran Morris, Jr., Forrest Aldrich, Mitchell Parker, Tillie Aldrich, who each received $13,404.44.

Tribal employees who received payments are identified in the indictment only by their initials.

Jessica Webster-Valentino, Jeff Miller and Rodney Morris continue to serve on the tribal council, The Sioux City Journal reported.

Read More on the Story:
Judge denies dismissal of charges against Omaha Tribe officials (The Sioux City Journal December 15, 2017)

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