White Earth Tribe Leaders Convicted of Corruption
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Leaders of the White Earth Band of Chippewa Indians, convicted of federal corruption charges for rigging elections and taking kickbacks, were ousted Tuesday by winners of a recent tribal election.
Outgoing tribal Chairman Darrell ``Chip″ Wadena and two other leaders were convicted Monday of charges including conspiracy, theft, embezzlement and money laundering. No sentencing date was set and prosecutors would not estimate what penalties they could face.
Wadena, 57, recently lost his re-election bid after serving 20 years as tribal chairman. The White Earth is one of six bands of Chippewa Indians in Minnesota and has more than 20,000 members.
Winners of the tribal election, scheduled to take office July 9, were sworn in Tuesday at the tribe’s northwestern Minnesota reservation.
Newly elected chairman Eugene ``Bugger″ McArthur said he and the others had the authority to take over because Wadena, Secretary-Treasurer Jerry Rawley and council member Rick Clark were disqualified by their convictions.
Prosecutors argued that Wadena, Rawley and Clark lived lavishly on the impoverished reservation, and that some of them had rigged elections. Defense lawyers said election irregularities were simply part of ``Indian Country″ tradition.
In one deal, Wadena and Rawley took nearly $500,000 in kickbacks from Clark to ensure that Clark’s drywall firm would land a lucrative contract for work on the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen.
Wadena testified that he saw no conflict in awarding the contract to the firm, even though he secretly owned half of it.
Later Tuesday, Wadena said he was still in charge at the reservation.
``They have no authority whatsoever,″ he told KDLM radio in Detroit Lakes. ``It’s usurping the authority of the tribe.″