Money intended to fight violence against Native women in Montana once again got diverted into a fraud scheme in 2017 and 2018, according to charges recently made public.

Meredith McConnell and Barbara Mary Daychief, both members of the Montana Native Women’s Coalition, received reimbursement for trips that weren’t approved as part of their work, prosecutors charge.

The two also received and authorized double payments for days in service, authorized unapproved construction projects and took other benefits they were not entitled to, according to the government.

The indictment was unsealed Monday.

McConnell was chairwoman of the coalition and executive director of a Lame Deer victim services organization called Healing Hearts during the period of thefts between late 2017 and early 2018.

She is accused of submitting receipts for travel she did not take, or inflating the prices for travel, across four trips. McConnell wrongly received $1,853.93 for trips to Polson, Las Vegas, Palm Springs and San Diego, according to the indictment.

Daychief, who was a coalition board member, ran up false travel receipts amounting to $2,973.74, prosecutors charge. The payments were made for two trips to Billings and one to Las Vegas.

Both woman had received training by the First Nations Development Institute on conflicts of interest, whistleblower policies, financial oversight and the code of ethics of the women’s coalition, prosecutors note.

The training took place two months after the coalition’s previous executive director pleaded guilty to stealing federal funds, prosecutors note. 

Then-Director Toni Louise Plummer-Alvernaz inflated work hours, used the organization’s credit cards to pay for vacations and claimed travel that never occurred. She was sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay $246,024 in restitution in 2017.

It was not immediately clear whether McConnell or Daychief are yet represented by an attorney.

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Justice Reporter

Justice reporter for the Billings Gazette.