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Tribal Law – Federal Defense

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  • The increase in trade, business, and gaming within Tribal Nations has been accompanied by a similar increase in federal investigations and prosecutions for various frauds, thefts, and other crimes in connection with tribal or federal funds.
  • Several statutes target such improper conduct including the following: (1) Embezzlement and Theft from Indian Tribal Organizations—18 U.S. Code § 1163; (2) Theft or Bribery Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds—18 U.S. Code § 666; and (3) The Travel Act—18 U.S.C. § 1952.
  • These federal provisions can result in criminal sanctions, fines, and other penalties as well as imprisonment. The Department of Justice has recently led prosecutions involving the embezzlement or theft from tribal organizations under U.S. Code Section 666.
  • Consider placing an experienced tribal law defense attorney from Oberheiden, P.C. on your side today to fight for your rights.

Experienced Defense Team in Tribal Law

If you have been charged or are under investigation in cases involving tribal law, now is the time to take prompt action in your defense.

As Tribal Nations seek to expand their business potential, trading capacity, and gaming industry, it is only inevitable that there will be an increased level of federal regulation and federal criminal enforcement.

Therefore, there is greater risk that transactions, activities, and conduct will receive increased federal scrutiny—leading to criminal charges, jail time, and significant penalties and fines.

You need an individualized defense strategy to combat federal charges. Do not wait to get in touch with an experienced defense attorney in tribal law today. We are here to help.

At Oberheiden, P.C., we have a dedicated and experienced Tribal Law Defense Team that is highly qualified in handling criminal allegations involving Tribal Nations. We are committed to providing Tribal Nations and tribal governments with high quality service and personalized legal representation to defend their rights.

Put Oberheiden, P.C. on your side today to fight for your freedom.

Examples of Fraud, Thefts, and Other Schemes Involving Indian Tribal Governments

The federal government has become increasingly wary of all frauds that implicate federal funds, federal government programs, or that otherwise threaten the integrity of the United States.

For instance, there are several federal agencies who are actively involved in federal criminal tribal investigations, including the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), the Bureau of Indian Affairs (“BIA”), the Criminal Division of the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”), tribal police officers, and several U.S. Attorney’s Offices.

Examples of such frauds, thefts, and other schemes involving tribal governments and communities include the following:

  • Evading federal unemployment taxes by making a corporate structure or other entity appear as “tribally-owned”
  • Claiming non-resident alien status by filing Form W-8BEN that contains false information
  • Misrepresenting a tribe’s federal status to achieve certain tax advantages
  • Using gaming and casino comps for purposes other than those relating to gaming
  • Improperly calculating or reporting gaming revenue in taxes
  • Misrepresenting treaty provisions to obtain tax relief that is not allowed
  • Improperly sheltering capital gains
  • Perpetrating fraudulent schemes involving income from tribal lands
  • Bribes, corruption, and kickbacks involving tribes
  • Embezzlement schemes of tribal entities
  • Embezzlement of federal funds or federal programs
  • Theft or misappropriation of tribal funds
  • Theft or misappropriation of federal funds or federal programs

The above list is only representative of the top schemes that the federal government investigates and prosecutes. It is important to be aware of these issues since they could result in severe criminal penalties and imprisonment.

If you have any questions regarding federal criminal allegations of tribal fraud, theft of tribal or federal funds, bribery, corruption, etc., do not hesitate to get in contact with Oberheiden, P.C.’s Tribal Law Defense Team today.

Federal Statutes Targeting Theft of Tribal/Federal Funds

Federal legislation regulating bribery and theft of tribal/federal funds demonstrates Congress’ intent to both protect funds received by tribes and prosecute the mismanagement of those funds.

Tribal Nations—as well as entities and individuals who do business with them—should be vigilant of the key federal statutes that target tribal frauds and other criminal activities:

1. Embezzlement and Theft from Indian Tribal Organizations (18 U.S. Code § 1163)

  • This provision prohibits the following:
    • “Whoever embezzles, steals, knowingly converts to his use or the use of another, willfully misapplies, or willfully permits to be misapplied, any of the moneys, funds, credits, goods, assets, or other property belonging to any Indian tribal organization or intrusted to the custody or care of any officer, employee, or agent of an Indian tribal organization;” or
    • “Whoever, knowing any such moneys, funds, credits, goods, assets, or other property to have been so embezzled, stolen, converted, misapplied or permitted to be misapplied, receives, conceals, or retains the same with intent to convert it to his use or the use of another.”
  • Anyone who is found to have engaged in such conduct will be fined or imprisoned for not more than five years—or both. However, if the value of the property does not exceed $1,000, then the violating individual will be fined or imprisoned for not more than one year—or both.

2. Theft or Bribery Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds (18 U.S. Code § 666)

  • This provision includes “Indian tribal government” within the list of individuals/entities who can be prosecuted for the relevant criminal conduct.
  • Section 666 prohibits any agent or agency of an organization, state, local, or Indian tribal government who . . .
    • “embezzles, steals, obtains by fraud, or otherwise without authority knowingly converts to the use of any person other than the rightful owner or intentionally misapplies, property” that is valued at $5,000 or more and that is owned or under the control of such organization, government, or agency; or
    • “corruptly solicits or demands for the benefit of any person, or accepts or agrees to accept, anything of value from any person, intending to be influenced or rewarded” in connection with a business or transaction involving anything that is valued at $5,000 or more.
  • Section 666 also prohibits anyone who “corruptly gives, offers, or agrees to give anything of value to any person, with intent to influence or reward an agent of an organization or of a State, local or Indian tribal government, or any agency thereof, in connection with any business, transaction, or series of transactions of such organization, government, or agency involving anything of value of $5,000 or more.”
  • If the above provisions have been violated, the relevant parties will be fined or imprisoned for not more than 10 years—or both.
  • The provisions described above refer to situations where the organization, government, or agency receives benefits in excess of $10,000 under a Federal program in any one-year period.
  • It is important to note that the government does not need to prove in its prosecution that the federal funds were somehow involved in the scheme.

3. The Travel Act—Interstate and Foreign Travel or Transportation in Aid of Racketeering Enterprises (18 U.S.C. § 1952)

  • The Travel Act may apply to conduct that has occurred or is occurring in Tribal Nations.
  • It prohibits anyone who travels in interstate or foreign commerce or uses the mails in interstate or foreign commerce with the intent to . . .
    • “(1) distribute the proceeds of any unlawful activity; or
    • (2) commit any crime of violence to further any unlawful activity; or
    • (3) otherwise promote, manage, establish, carry on, or facilitate the promotion, management, establishment, or carrying on, of any unlawful activity.”
  • If that individual then performs or attempts to perform conduct described in either (1) or (3), that individual will be fined or imprisoned not more than 5 years—or both.
  • If that individual then performs or attempts to perform conduct described in (2), that individual will be fined or imprisoned for not more than 20 years—or both, and if death results will be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.

Recent DOJ Efforts to Prosecute Theft of Tribal/Federal Money

The Department of Justice has been aggressively investigating and prosecuting individuals in connection with the theft of tribal or federal funds. Below are two examples of cases involving violations of U.S. Code §666:

  • September 3, 2020: A Seminole man was sentenced to four years of probation and ordered to pay $249,000 in restitution for Theft from Organization Receiving Federal Program Funds in violation of U.S. Code Section 666(a)(1)(A). The charges were first investigated by the Seminole Police Department and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (“DCIS”) of the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General. The information alleged that the defendant was an agent, employee, and officer of an organization that received over $10,000 in federal benefits in each one year from 2011 through 2016, and that the defendant stole, embezzled, and otherwise obtained by fraud property with a value of $5,000 or more that was owned and under the care of that organization. Throughout these years, the defendant had fraudulently used a company credit card to purchase items valued at nearly $250,000 for his personal enrichment.
  • August 13, 2020: Two individuals were sentenced for bribery, theft, and/or embezzlement of Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town. One defendant was sentenced to 12 months and one day imprisonment, 2 years’ supervised release, and was ordered to pay a fine of $10,000 for bribery regarding programs receiving federal funds, in violation of U.S. Code Section 666(a)(a)(B). The other defendant was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, 3 years’ supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution of $1,250,000 for the theft and embezzlement of funds from business entities that are wholly owned by the Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town (“AQTT”)—a federally recognized Indian tribe located in Oklahoma. The second defendant was also sentenced to 3 years’ imprisonment, 1-year supervised release, and ordered to pay $105,068.58 for federal tax charges (concurrent sentences). The defendants had taken advantage of the trust that the Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town had given them and exploited their position for their own selfish gain—conduct that will be investigated and prosecuted, noted the U.S. Attorney on the case.

If you have any questions regarding these cases or any questions regarding a current or impending investigation, do not hesitate to contact Oberheiden. P.C.’s Tribal Law Defense Team. We can help you resolve any uncertainty and respond appropriately and effectively to any investigation/prosecution.

Need Legal Assistance in Tribal Law Defense?

Prosecutions for theft of federal or tribal funds involving Tribal Nations is increasing along with the aggressive federal approach towards investigating instances of tribal fraud, corruption, bribery, theft, and other illegality.

The federal criminal process can be very lengthy and confusing, which could pose significant challenges to Tribal Nations and tribal communities. Do not wait for an investigation to begin without taking prompt action. Do not divulge any information to a federal agent without first speaking with an attorney in tribal law.

It is important that you understand your rights and get an attorney to explain these rights to you. Finding an attorney proficient in tribal law representation does not have to be stressful or challenging.

The Tribal Law Defense Team at Oberheiden, P.C. has the experience and extensive knowledge in tribal law needed to prepare your defense to fight federal criminal accusations. Let us help you.

If you need assistance regarding federal criminal charges involving Tribal Nations or tribal law, call us today or contact our office for a free and confidential consultation.