Former tribal chairman pleads not-guilty to charges

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A former chairman and council member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe pleaded not-guilty in federal court Friday, on charges he committed embezzlement and theft from an Indian tribal organization and also aided and abetted others in federal crimes.

Brandon Sazue, 45, of Chamberlain was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury, according to U.S. Attorney Ron Parsons.

The announcement from Parsons office stated:

“According to the Indictment, in about March 2014 through February 2019, Roland Robert Hawk Sr., Francine Maria Middletent, Roxanne Lynette Sazue, Jacquelyn Ernestine Pease, and Brandon Sazue embezzled, stole, willfully misapplied, willfully permitted to (be) misapplied, and converted to their own use over $1,000 of monies, funds, credit, goods, assets, and other property belonging to the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. 

“During times relevant to each defendant’s case, Brandon Sazue served as Chair of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Hawk served as the elected Treasurer of the tribe, Roxanne Sazue was also Chair, and Middletent was an elected councilperson.

“When not serving in their respective leadership positions, all defendants, except for Brandon Sazue, worked for Hawk in the tribe’s finance office.  In their respective leadership roles and employment positions, the defendants had the access and opportunity to the funds that were embezzled from the tribe. 

“The maximum penalties for each defendant upon conviction are as follows:  5 years imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine; 3 years of supervised release; $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund; and restitution may be ordered.”

Hawk Sr. is in custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, while Pease, Middletent, Roxanne Sazue, and Brandon Sazue were released on bond.  Their trial is set to start September 10, 2019.

Hawk Sr., Pease, Middletent and Roxanne Sazue were indicted in July. Roxanne Sazue is an aunt of Brandon Sazue.

Brandon Sazue was chairman three different times: 2008-2010, 2012-2014 and 2016-2018. Roxanne Sazue was chairwoman prior to Brandon Sazue’s election in 2016.

Lester Thompson Jr. is the current chairman. U.S. Attorney Parsons attended the May 1, 2018, ceremony inaugurating Thompson, who previously served as chairman for two years from 2006 to 2008.

Another past Crow Creek chairman, Duane Big Eagle, Sr., was convicted by a federal jury in 2011 of bribery. Big Eagle and Brandon Sazue finished ahead of Thompson in the 2008 tribal primary.

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