Nine Former Winnebago Tribal Council Members Indicted


Former Winnebago Tribal Chairman John Blackhawk and eight other former tribal council members were indicted by a federal grand jury on July 19.

Blackhawk, Darwin Snyder, Thomas Snowball Jr., Louis Houghton, Lawrence Payer, Travis Mallory, Charles Aldrich, Morgan Earth and Ramona Wolfe were charged with conspiracy, theft and misapplication of funds belonging to an Indian gaming establishment, and wire fraud according to a press release on July 20 from Deborah R. Gilg, U.S. attorney for the District of Nebraska.

The nine are alleged to have “devised, executed and aided and abetted the execution of a plan to receive additional funds directly from the WinneVegas Casino without accounting for same payroll through the payroll department of the Winnebago Tribe and without approving the distribution of such funds at a regular meeting of the tribal council,” the release stated.

The indictment alleges each defendant received a salary in excess of $80,00 in 2013, and $87,000 in 2014. The 2013 salaries were retroactively applied to October 1, 2012 and resulted in lump sum payments for each tribal council member of various amounts. Allegedly, the defendants received five separate bonuses and were paid for unused vacation time.

Defendants Aldrich, Blackhawk, Houghton, Payer and Snyder allegedly received pay for continuous employment.

These distributions were reportedly paid on the form of gift certificates issued by the casino and multiple loads to pre-paid debit cards paid for by the casino.

The defendants could be facing fines and prison terms of up to 20 years.In total, the WinneVegas Casino lost $327,500 through the scheme.

The Winnebago Tribe discovered the misappropriations in late 2014 and early 2015, which lead to resignations by some of the council members as reported by Blackhawk resigned in April of 2015 after almost 20 years leading the tribe.

FBI Supervisory Agent in Charge Randy Thysse stated: “These individuals used their elected official positions to enrich themselves and in the process betrayed the trust of their peers and those they were elected to serve.”

“We are confident our community will recover with the resilience our people have always relied upon,” Chairwoman Darla LaPointe said in a statement on the tribe’s Facebook page following the indictments.

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page