Lower Brule tribal members allege millions have been embezzledLongtime chairman Jandreau says allegations are false.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
LOWER BRULE — An association of Lower Brule Sioux tribal members is seeking an investigation into corruption among the tribe’s leaders for the alleged misuse of millions of federal dollars.
In documents and letters emailed Jan. 28 to The Daily Republic, the Lower Brule Tribal Members/Landowners Association accuses the tribe’s long-time chairman, Michael Jandreau, and tribal council of embezzling millions of federal dollars in grants and loans received by the tribe.
The association also accuses the tribe’s officials of illegally changing the tribe’s constitution and fixing tribal elections.
“We believe as former tribal employees and current tribal members of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe that there is a system of corruption that has been going on unchecked,” a letter addressed to Montana U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter says.
Among the documents is a petition for the removal of Jandreau, who has been the tribe’s chairman for 33 years, and several tribal council members. The petition is addressed to the U.S. Department of Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Jandreau denies the accusations.
“They have faulty information,” he said in a recent interview with The Daily Republic. “It’s necessary that they need to sit down to be informed.”
He said the allegations are something the association has “configured in their own minds” and it’s not the first time allegations have been brought against tribal officials.
“It’s obviously also a personal attack on me,” Jandreau said. “But everyone is entitled to their own opinions.”
The association has apparently asked Cotter, Montana’s U.S. attorney, to launch an investigation by the Montana Guardians Project, which was formed in October 2011 to specifically investigate fraud and corruption in federal grants and contracts in Indian country.
Jessica Fehr, spokeswoman for the Montana U.S. Attorney’s Office, confirmed the office has received the letter but said she has “no information to share at this point.”
The South Dakota U.S. Attorney’s Office reported no knowledge of any investigation into Jandreau or the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, according to spokeswoman Ace Crawford.
A specific claim in the documents accuses Lower Brule tribal officials of buying a Wall Street company, Westrock Financial, through another company, known either as LBC Western Holdings LLC or LBC Western, to justify a $22.5 million economic development loan from the Department of Interior.
Tribal officials are alleged to have sold the $22.5 million loan to Great American Insurance Group for $14.5 million, “which, to date, cannot be accounted for, nor was it made public to the tribal members,” the letter to U.S. Attorney Cotter says.
Once the loan was sold for cash, Westrock Financial, while still owned by the tribal officials, filed for bankruptcy, the letter says.
The series of events is just one example of an “ongoing abuse and theft” of federal dollars by Lower Brule tribal officials, the documents allege. The documents also say the tribe has received more than $240 million in federal funding in the last five years.
“Many of the tribal elections have been intentionally corrupted to ensure that there is no break in the action,” the letter says.
Changes made to the tribe’s constitution without the tribe’s permission leave “tax dollars virtually unchecked and without adequate oversight,” the letter says.
The documents also allege misconduct by Jandreau regarding the $18 million the tribe received in August as a settlement from the federal government for trust fund accounting and trust mismanagement claims, and another federal case involving individual trust funds that ended last November with a $3.4 billion class-action settlement among 500,000 claimants.
— The Daily Republic’s Anna Jauhola contributed to this report.