Sazue becomes sixth to plead guilty to Crow Creek embezzlement
PIERRE — As of Wednesday, all six former Crow Creek tribal council members charged with embezzlement and theft have entered guilty pleas in federal court.
Brandon Sazue, who served as the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe's chairperson from May 2012 to April 2014 and from May 2016 to April 2018, pleaded guilty to endorsing checks from the tribe's general welfare account to himself and his codefendants, personally receiving more than $15,000.
That money is a portion of the between $565,000 and $1.05 million admitted to have been stolen from the tribe by Sazue and five others, all of whom have been released on bond, between March 2014 and February 2019.
Sazue, Tina Grey Owl, Roxanne Sazue, Roland Hawk Sr., Francine Middletent and Jacquelyn Pease are scheduled to be sentenced in May and June. Each faces up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine and could be ordered to pay restitution.
All were charged in July with aiding and abetting one another in embezzlement and theft from a tribal organization, with the exception of Grey Owl, who was charged separately with theft and embezzlement in August.
Hawk, who served as the tribal council's treasurer and had signature authority on the tribe's Wells Fargo checking account for the General Welfare Program throughout the time period involved in the investigation, pleaded guilty in January to receiving between $250,000 and $550,000 in tribal funds.
Grey Owl, Middletent and Pease, according to factual basis statements, all worked in the tribe's finance office and have pleaded guilty to the receipt of more than $95,000, between $150,000 and $250,000 and between $40,000 and $95,000, respectively. According to court documents, Brandon Sazue endorsed checks to Middletent and Hawk while chairperson, and Pease acted at the direction of Hawk and others.
Roxanne Sazue, who was chairperson from May 2014 until April 2016, pleaded guilty in September to receiving between $15,000 and $40,000 from the general welfare fund.
Hawk is also set to stand trial in June for separate federal charges of aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact for offenses that allegedly occurred in 2018 in Fort Thompson. A warrant for his arrest is pending out of Clark County, Nevada, for allegations that he sexually assaulted a girl under the age of 16 in December 2017 while on a trip to Las Vegas.