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North Dakota Tribal LIHEAP Officials Indicted for Fraud

April 9, 2011 --  According to federal court documents and a court official, two council members of the Spirit Lake Tribe at Fort Totten, N.D., were indicted initially in a case alleging three years of fraud and theft of tribal LIHEAP funds. Three women, one of them the coordinator of the energy assistance program, were charged in federal court this week in Grand Forks.

U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon announced Wednesday that Patricia Robertson, also known as Patti Cavanaugh, coordinator of the tribe’s LIHEAP, stole and misapplied at least $1,000 from the program from October 2007 until the end of March.

Robertson appeared in federal court in Grand Forks on Wednesday and pleaded not guilty. Also arrested this week were Brooke Black and Barbara Walking Eagle, each charged with two similar counts. Walking Eagle, 64, and the wife of council member Carl Walking Eagle, appeared in federal court in Grand Forks on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty.

Black, according to tribal members, is the girlfriend of Justin Yankton, who is secretary and treasurer of the tribal council. Yankton is named in the initial indictment of Black on the two counts. However, according to a court docket document, his name later was redacted from her indictment.

Black appeared in court Wednesday in Grand Forks and pleaded not guilty to the charges that federal officials say began in October 2008 and continued until her arrest this week.

All three women were released on their own recognizance. Black is scheduled to be arraigned April 18, according to court documents.

A court official told the Herald other indictments in the case are expected to be made public.

Source: Grand Forks Herald