Former Winnebago tribe councillor pleads guilty to theft

By Robert Simmons
In proceedings held in the US District Court in Omaha, former Winnebago Tribal Council member Charles Aldrich pleaded guilty to charges of theft following an FBI investigation in 2015 which found financial irregularities at the tribe’s casino.

Aldrich is one of nine former councillors arrested after FBI officials found that they had given themselves pay raises and bonuses totalling $327,000 directly from the tribe’s WinnaVegas casino resort accounts without first approving them at council meetings.

In offences taking place in 2013 and 2014, the defendants were issued over $87,000 in gift certificates and funds transferred to prepaid credit cards totalling $240,000. In both instances these were paid for by the casino but recorded on the casino financial records as miscellaneous administrative expense.

Following publication of the FBI report into the irregularities, all nine were forced to resign from their posts on the council.

In July 2016, indictments on charges of theft, conspiracy, and wire fraud were handed down to Charles Aldrich, Louis Houghton, Lawrence Payer, Darwin Snyder, Travis Mallory, Morgan Earth, Romana Wolfe, Thomas Snowball Jr and former tribal chairman John Blackhawk.

Of the nine, Payer and Houghton have previously pleaded guilty to the charges and are currently awaiting sentencing, with both expected to be placed on probation due to their advanced age.

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