Federal Agents Seize Tribal Records

Federal Agents Seize Tribal Records

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Federal agents investigating allegations of corruption in the leadership of the Goshutes' Skull Valley Band seized records and computers from tribal offices in South Salt Lake, and have subpoenaed witnesses.

The allegations of embezzlement, fraud and other crimes were voiced amid a dispute for leadership posts during the past several years.

Tribal Chairman Leon Bear did not return calls seeking comment.

A lawyer for the tribe said the Goshutes were cooperating.

"The band has always been cooperative with the investigations," said attorney Tim Vollmann, who was quoted in a copyright story in The Salt Lake Tribune.

The agencies involved in last week's search declined to comment.

"There is nothing we can say," said Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney in Salt Lake City.

Former tribal Vice Chairwoman Mary Allen, who lost a re-election bid in 2000, and her brother, Rex Allen, who has been trying to claim the title of tribal secretary, have been called to testify before a federal grand jury, the newspaper said.

The Allens, along with Bear, were the tribal leaders who signed a 1997 deal between the Goshutes and Private Fuel Storage, a consortium of utility companies that has leased 820 acres on the tribal reservation.

PFS is attempting to secure a federal license to store spent nuclear-fuel rods on leased reservation land.

The Allens also are embroiled in a civil lawsuit with Bear over control of tribal funds at three Utah banks. They accuse Bear of mismanaging the project and the undisclosed funds associated with it.

In another development, the band's leaders recently rejected overtures by the Interior Department to consider alternatives to the nuclear waste storage facility.

They also accused the department of duplicity and questioned the involvement of Gov. Mike Leavitt.

The department's behavior "thus makes a mockery of (the Goshute-Interior) trust relationship and insults the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians," said a letter from tribal leaders to Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles.

Interior officials had no comment Wednesday. The Tribune said a March 27 Interior letter to the band suggested "possible economic development projects that could be considered in lieu of that proposed (nuclear-waste) project."

In his letter, Griles raised the possibility of adding 26,800 acres of state and federal land to the tribe's 18,000-acre reservation, a possible economic development project sponsored by the state, expanded hunting and fishing rights and a state-sponsored university tuition waiver for tribe members.

Griles said, "We are unable to meet the sum" of $50 million that had been identified by Bear as being necessary "to position the band for economic success and fruitfulness."

The Goshute Executive Committee -- Bear, Vice Chairwoman Lori Skiby and Secretary Shareen Wash -- sent a response last week calling the offer disingenuous.

Goshute officials assailed the governor's willingness to advance an alternative.

"This is not anything the state has offered or put forward," said Leavitt spokeswoman Natalie Gochnour. "But he (Leavitt) was made aware of it."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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