Former Crow tribal employees arraigned in corruption case

Former employees of Historic Preservation Office accused of theft of more than $500K
2012-12-11T12:00:00Z 2013-08-22T15:11:11Z Former Crow tribal employees arraigned in corruption caseBy SUSAN OLP solp@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

In what was almost entirely a family affair, the former head of the Crow Tribe Historic Preservation Office and six others were charged Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Billings with defrauding the tribe of more than $500,000.

Dale Drew Old Horn, 67, of Crow Agency, the former head of the preservation office, appeared with six others before U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby in the case that includes 18 counts.

In addition to Dale Old Horn, the others charged included:

-- Allen Joseph Old Horn, 40, of Crow Agency, Dale Old Horn's son;

-- Martin Lloyd Old Horn, 21, of Crow Agency, Dale Old Horn's grandson;

-- Shawn Talking Eagle Danforth, 37, of Crow Agency, who at the time was in a relationship with the niece of Dale Old Horn;

--Larkin Troy Chandler, 46, of Crow Agency, who was an employee of the Crow Tribe Historic Preservation Office;

-- Mark James Denny, 33, of Crow Agency, Dale Old Horn's nephew;

-- Frederick Deputee Jr., 25, of Crow Agency, Dale Old Horn's nephew.

All seven men pleaded not guilty and were released without bond. An eighth defendant, Danelle Lynn Old Horn, 42, of Hardin, who was Dale Old Horn's daughter and Martin Old Horn's mother, died on Dec. 5.

The charges listed in the indictment, which varied by defendant, included conspiracy to defraud the Crow Tribe, corrupt diversion of tribal revenues, theft from an organization receiving federal funding, theft from an Indian tribal organization, extortion involving a federally funded program and federal income tax fraud.

Dale Old Horn was charged with conspiracy to defraud, corrupt diversion of tribal revenues, theft from an organization receiving federal funding and theft from an Indian tribal organization.

Allen Old Horn was charged with the same four counts, as well as with extortion involving a federally funded program and federal income tax fraud.

The defendants were represented at the arraignment by Assistant Federal Defenders Mark Werner and Steve Babcock.

The case will be heard by Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull.

According to the 26-page indictment, Dale Old Horn, through subordinates who acted as tribal monitors, diverted payments of about $520,000 from the tribe to the monitors.

In 2005, the Crow Tribe created, and the National Park Service funded, a Tribal Historic Preservation Office to protect and enhance Crow lands and cultural resources by identifying, inventorying and protecting culturally, archaeologically and historically important resources.

The tribe also required that all business and companies whose activities could damage or disturb important tribal sites work with monitors from the preservation office. The companies would reimburse the tribe for the services of that employee.

Old Horn was named director of the THPO in 2005. According to the indictment, in 2009, Old Horn spoke with Darrin Old Coyote, then the vice secretary of the tribe who was charged with oversight of the office.

Old Horn approached Old Coyote with the idea for the scheme. Old Coyote was not indicted.

From mid-July 2009 until November 2011, Old Horn and the other defendants devised a plan to divert payments made by the companies to the monitors, the indictment said. The defendants did not document the services they provided to the companies and they didn't transmit the companies' payments to the tribe.

Companies unknowingly drawn into the scheme included NorthWestern Energy, ConocoPhillips and Wasatch Electric in Salt Lake City.

The indictment listed many instances when the defendants submitted invoices to the companies for hours of work done. Some of the monitors were not employees of the THPO office. The amounts billed to the companies ranged from $975 to $3,600.

At one point, the indictment said, Allen Old Horn demanded immediate payment of $5,000 in tribal monitoring fees from Wasatch Electric, under the threat of shutting down an ongoing power line maintenance project.

If convicted of corrupt diversion of tribal revenues, the maximum sentence is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum sentence for theft from an organization receiving federal funding is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum sentence for conspiracy to defraud or theft from an Indian tribal organization is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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