Geneva Lone Hill inside the community center, which is one of four buildings constructed by the Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation. Photo by Ernestine Anukasan / Native Sun News Today

Native Sun News Today: Reservation community responds

Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation issues statement

Part III of a series | Part I | Part II

BATESLAND – The community that was victimized by a scam that took advantage of the abject poverty that grips much of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation responded to recent press coverage by Native Sun News Today.

The Wakpamni District, with a population of about 5,000, is one of nine districts located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Southwest South Dakota. The reservation is located within Oglala Lakota County which was designated by the U.S. Census Bureau in 1980 as the poorest county in the nation.

This designation was the icing on the cake that enabled a few unscrupulous individuals to concoct a scam that defrauded investors out of more than $60 million by taking advantage of these impoverished people.

According to Geneva Lone Hill, President of the Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation, in 2014 members of the WLCC had traveled to the Reservation Economic Summit (RES2014) in Las Vegas seeking economic opportunities.

With little or no capital, no land base and no collateral it is often difficult for tribal members and tribal communities to obtain loans from banks to invest in their business ventures.

New blinds installed on the new church windows.

Posted by Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation on Monday, February 3, 2020

So when they encountered a man named John Galanis who was staffing a booth inside one of the conference rooms pitching his bond offering scheme, Galanis seemed like a Godsend.

Lone Hill said Galanis was representing Burnham Securities, a firm they believed to be well-established and reputable. Galanis had also been targeting other Native American tribes at the RES conference, but of all the tribes Galanis could have chosen to inflict his multimillion dollar scam on, it’s a shame he targeted the poorest people in the U.S.

According to a lawsuit filed in October 2019 by Chicago Transit Authority Retiree Health Care Trust and the Board of Trustees for the Chicago Transit Authority Retiree Health Care Trust (RCHT) aimed at the law firms Dilworth Paxson, LLP; Timothy Anderson; and Greenberg Traurig, LLP, in March of 2014 while at the RES2014 conference, Raycen Raines, CEO of the WLCC invited former WLCC attorney Timothy Anderson to attend a meeting with John Galanis to discuss a proposal for the bond offering.

“During the meeting, John Galanis explained his proposal to have WLCC issue debt in the form of bonds. Unlike other municipal bonds, the vast majority of the bond proceeds under Galanis's plan would be invested in an annuity contract with an offshore insurance company. The revenues from the annuity contract would then be used to pay the principal and interest payments due on the bonds (i.e., the debt service).”

The lawsuit states that if the plan had worked it would have generated “free money” for WLCC and that the annuity concept was “novel” and “something new.”

So when WLCC entered into a partnership with what they believed were reputable representatives of Burnham Securities, which was pitched as co-owned by Hunter Biden, the Vice-President’s son and others, they believed it was the answer to their hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow.

According to Lone Hill the money generated would have given the Wakpamni District ample capital to invest in a warehouse where they could ship goods they had produced locally, a laundromat, a bakery, a community building for Bingo and community events, a tutoring facility to teach Lakota language and entrepreneurial skills, an incubator for business start-ups, a sewing center and a bowling alley.

When WLCC received an initial payment of $2,250,000, which was held in trust by U.S. Bank, Lone Hill said the community broke ground on construction of their warehouse.

However when the rest of money they were promised failed to deliver, community members became suspicious and began an investigation, Lone Hill said. What they uncovered would send shockwaves all the way to the White House.

“On the surface everything was completely legit. It was so sophisticated,” said an attorney for WLCC. “When you’re on the outside looking in, it all looked completely legit.”

After the members of the community gathered evidence in what they believed was a scam, Lone Hill said they turned over what they uncovered to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The U.S. Attorney’s office took their claims seriously and began an investigation. However the scam turned out to be so sophisticated even the U.S. Attorney’s office had difficulty figuring it all out and it would take them several years to prosecute and convict Jason Galanis, Hugh Dunkerley, Gary Hirst, John Galanis, a/k/a “Yanni,” Bevan Cooney, Devon Archer and Michelle Morton in the fraud against the Wakpamni community and the trust funds who invested in the bonds.


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Greenberg Traurig
The Greenberg Traurig law firm has issued a statement in connection with the lawsuit. It follows:

"The fraud perpetuated against WLCC was a tragedy for all. WLCC was a victim of the fraud and its attorneys did not assist the fraud in any way. That is shown by the fact that neither WLCC or its attorneys were charged in the criminal proceedings against the wrong doers who have pleaded guilty.”

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