A federal jury Friday convicted three former employees of the Crow Tribe’s Historic Preservation Office on all counts in a corruption case in which they were accused of stealing more than $500,000 from the tribe in a double-billing scheme.
The jury deliberated about seven hours over two days before reaching the verdicts. Testimony began Tuesday.
The panel found Dale Old Horn, 68, former director of the office; his son, Allen Joseph Old Horn, 41, a supervisor and monitor; and Shawn Talking Eagle Danforth, 38, a monitor who had a relationship with Dale Old Horn’s niece, of conspiracy, corrupt diversion of tribal revenues/mail fraud, theft from an organization receiving federal funds and theft from a tribal organization.
The jury also convicted Allen Old Horn of extortion and income tax fraud.
The indictment accused Allen Old Horn of threatening to have a project by Wasatch Electric of Salt Lake City shut down if he wasn’t paid immediately for monitoring work in September 2011. Wasatch Electric paid him the money. A company official testified that Allen Old Horn got paid faster than normal because of concern that the project might be stopped.
“He was shaking down Wasatch for immediate payment. He got it,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl Rostad in closing arguments Thursday.
In filing his 2010 tax return, Allen Old Horn also falsely listed more than $75,000 in business expenses, which got him a $9,251 refund when his tax liability actually would have been about $10,393, the prosecution said.
Senior U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon set sentencing for Dec. 10 in Helena and ordered all three defendants into custody immediately. The judge said he would consider motions for release.
The defendants face a maximum of 20 years in prison on the mail fraud count and possible fines of up to $250,000.
The case is one of the first investigations by a special team of agents and auditors working with the U.S. Attorney’s Guardians Project, which focuses on fraud and corruption in federal grants and contracts in Indian Country. The agencies on the task force include the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Interior, the FBI and the Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS.
The defendants were indicted along with five others on allegations that they conspired from 2009 to 2011 to divert money from the tribe by having companies pay them directly for oversight services.
Rostad said Dale Old Horn got greedy, broke the tribe’s trust and changed the billings process to enrich family members, many of whom worked as monitors in the office.
The Historic Preservation Office is funded by a National Park Service grant and the tribe to protect the tribe’s cultural and historical resources. The office assigns monitors to oversee projects by companies doing business on the reservation, like pipeline and utility line work.
In 2009, Dale Old Horn changed without approval the tribe’s policy of billing companies, Rostad said. Previously the tribe would bill companies for monitoring services based on timesheets provided to the tribe’s finance office by the preservation office. At Old Horn’s direction, the companies started paying the monitors directly.
Most of the monitors were tribal employees who were paid a salary and also got paid for the work directly by the companies. Old Horn also assigned to companies monitors who were not tribal employees, including daughter, Danelle Lynn Old Horn, who died in December; and her son and his grandson, Martin Old Horn.
Defense attorneys argued there was no conspiracy and no criminal intent. Dale Old Horn believed he had the authority to change the policy, told investigators that direct billing was a common practice and said companies preferred that method of payment. Allen Old Horn and Danforth were doing as instructed by supervisors, they said.
Co-defendants Larkin Troy Chandler; Mark James Denny, Dale Old Horn’s nephew; and Frederick Paul Deputee, Jr., also Dale Old Horn’s nephew, all pleaded guilty in deals with the government and were sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay restitution. Martin Old Horn is awaiting sentencing.