New task force probes Indian Country fraud, corruption

2012-12-11T17:15:00Z 2013-01-30T07:59:04Z New task force probes Indian Country fraud, corruptionBy CLAIR JOHNSON The Billings Gazette

The federal indictment on Tuesday of the former director of the Crow Tribe’s Historic Preservation Office, Dale Old Horn, and six others others on corruption charges is one of the first cases to be investigated by a new federal task force.

Formed in October 2011, the Montana Guardians Project is focused on investigating fraud and corruption in federal grants and contracts in Indian Country, said U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter in announcing the project. The group is the first of its kind in the nation.

The Guardians Project brings together the FBI and various Offices of Inspector General to form “a unified strike force that focuses on theft, embezzlement, fraud and public corruption” affecting programs in Indian Country, Cotter said in a statement.

The Guardians use the technical expertise of the inspectors general, who investigate grant and contract fraud involving money distributed by their various agencies, with the FBI’s expertise in public corruption investigations, Cotter said.

Each case has one lead OIG agent and one lead FBI agent. Auditors, analysts and experts from other agencies, like the IRS, also may be tapped to help investigators.

The Guardians’ mission is to hold program managers accountable and to make sure that when money is awarded to help tribes with specific needs, it is used as intended, Cotter said.

“When corrupt employees and officials abuse the trust of the United States and their own people, stealing from grants and contracts or otherwise depriving the tribes of revenues dedicated to an important purpose, the Guardians are there to hold them to account,” Cotter said.

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