Plea Agreements Reached in Tribal Theft Cases

Plea Agreements Reached in Tribal Theft Cases

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Two members of the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians have pleaded guilty to federal theft charges while a third was sentenced for stealing from the tribe.

Marlinda Moon, Sammy Blackbear and Miranda Wash all were charged with multiple counts of theft of assets from an Indian tribal organization, accused of having taken more than $1.4 million from tribal accounts.

Moon and Wash were set for trial Monday before U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell, but instead entered guilty pleas to single counts of misdemeanor theft -- Moon for the misuse of $800; Wash for spending $650.

Moon hesitated before entering her plea, reluctant to say she knowingly broke the law.

"Even though nobody is recognizing it, we were trying to do tribal business," she said afterward.

Both women will be sentenced Nov. 28.

Blackbear, who pleaded guilty to one count of theft in March, was sentenced to three years' probation. He also will pay $17,300 in restitution at a rate of $100 per month to Zions Bank.

Duncan Steadman, an attorney accused of participating in the scheme, had also been scheduled to enter a plea Monday, but the hearing was postponed because Steadman was ill.

The thefts took place after a 2001 tribal election. Moon, Wash and Blackbear claimed to have won the contest, naming themselves the new tribal executive committee. They were accused of using a fake court order to consolidate tribal funds in multiple bank accounts into one account.

All three are part of faction of the tribe that opposes current tribal Chairman Leon Bear, who cut a deal with a private company to turn a portion of the reservation into a storage facility for spent nuclear fuel. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission earlier this month authorized a license for the Private Fuel Storage site, a decision the state plans to appeal.

Bear also had been under federal indictment for cheating on his taxes. He pleaded guilty to those charges and has been sentenced to three years' probation.


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune,

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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