In northern California, a federal grand jury has reportedly indicted three former members of the Paskenta Band Of Nomlaki Indians on charges that they had used tribal funds for their own personal expenses.

According to a report from The Washington Post newspaper John Crosby, Ines Crosby and Leslie Lohse were named in the 69-count indictment from the United States District Court For The Eastern District Of California concerning allegations of conspiracy to embezzle tribal funds, embezzlement of tribal funds, false statements to federal authorities and tax charges and could now face up to 20 years in prison along with hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines if convicted.

The newspaper reported that the Paskenta Band Of Nomlaki Indians were federally recognized in 2002 and soon after opened the Rolling Hills Casino near the town of Corning. The Tehama County enterprise proved profitable with its 840 slots, blackjack tables and 24-hour restaurants bringing in annual earnings of around $100 million and leading to every adult member of the tribe receiving about $54,000 a year. The casino cash also paid for a $3 million private jet and trust funds and scholarships as well as more than ten pounds of gold bullion.

However, following a heated power struggle between two rival tribal factions, May reportedly saw Andy Freeman, Tribal Chairman for the Paskenta Band Of Nomlaki Indians, send a letter to the Sacramento office of the Federal Bureau Of Investigation containing a number of specific allegations against the trio including that they had used more than $10 million to fund unauthorized trips on the tribe’s private jet.

Now, the United States Department Of Justice has pounced and officially charged the trio with embezzling nearly $6 million before using the money to fund what one tribal member reportedly called “a life of obscene luxury”.

John Crosby is a former agent with the Federal Bureau Of Investigation and had served as the Economic Development Director for the Paskenta Band Of Nomlaki Indians. The 53-year-old has reportedly been charged with using tribal money to buy an $838,000 house before outfitting it with swimming pools, spas and a putting green. It is moreover alleged that he utilized the tribe’s cash to charter a $105,000 flight to Hawaii and a $65,000 trip to Honduras before buying more than $100,000 in gold coins.

The indictment charges his 73-year-old mother, Ines Crosby, who had worked for the Paskenta Band Of Nomlaki Indians since 1996, with spending $55,000 of the tribe’s cash on a trip to New Zealand while she is additionally alleged to have illegally laid down $11,000 of its money for jewellery and more than $17,000 for a koi pond.

Sixty-two-year-old Leslie Lohse is the sister of Ines Crosby and the indictment alleges that she illegally spent tribal cash to pay off her credit cards before claiming that the funds had been used for official travel expenses.

“They and their co-conspirators used vicious and callous methods of intimidation and coercion to maintain access to the [Paskenta Band Of Nomlaki Indians’] money, millions of which they stole in order to live a life of obscene luxury while services to tribal members went unfunded and tribe members lived in fear of economic retaliation,” read a statement from Andrew Alejandre, Tribal Secretary for the Paskenta Band Of Nomlaki Indians.

The Washington Post reported that all three defendants started working for the Paskenta Band Of Nomlaki Indians before the opening of the Rolling Hills Casino and had become so deeply embedded in the tribe’s inner-workings that they were able to punish people who accused them of stealing by taking away their tribe stipends. However, this all ended in May after tribal members voted to oust the trio from their previous positions before making representations to Troy Burdick, Central California Superintendent for the Bureau Of Indian Affairs, in Sacramento.

“These persons abused and corrupted the tribe’s institutions of government and terrorized its members,” read the statement from Alejandre.

He declared that victims included “elders who lived in fear of losing the income that they depended upon to meet basic needs and who, in some cases, had such income taken from them for speaking out, leaving them destitute”.

The case is the product of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Todd A. Pickles and Matthew M. Yelovich are said to be prosecuting the case. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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