A former Fort Peck Tribes law enforcement officer admitted on Monday to defrauding the tribes of $40,000 in a scheme where he proposed a program to help youth but spent the money on himself, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.
Willard Wilson White, III, 43, of Glasgow, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and to income tax evasion. White faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris set sentencing for Sept. 25 and continued White’s release.
In court records filed by the prosecution, White was employed as a law enforcement officer for the Fort Peck Tribes. In June 2015, White approached the tribe’s Law and Justice Committee with a proposal to create a facility and programs to help youth who were separated from families through incarceration. White said he needed a total of $40,000 to establish the proposed Family Justice Center. White posted about the project on Facebook.
Prosecutors said evidence showed that White spent the money in less than 30 days and provided no services to the Fort Peck Tribes. Bank records indicated that White had $32.39 in his bank account before depositing the tribe’s money. The day of the deposit, White went to Williston, North Dakota, and withdrew $305 from Whisper’s, which was a local strip club. White continued spending money at retail stores and also bought a Jeep. In addition, White withdrew more than $11,000 in cash, all in less than three weeks.
Various tribal members saw White posting on Facebook and spending the money and instructed White to return the leftover money. White never did and he did not provide any services to the tribe.
The investigation also showed that White omitted on a 2015 tax return the $40,000 of income from the tribes. He also claimed dependents he was not entitled to claim. White filed six returns, which were rejected because the claimed dependents already were claimed by someone else. On a seventh attempt, White used an unclaimed child and Social Security number. White used children to obtain a $5,860 refund while paying nothing in federal tax. White’s tax evasion efforts resulted in him owing $10,184 to the IRS.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ryan Weldon and Karla Painter prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Fort Peck Tribes and the Department of Interior’s Office of Inspector General.