Former South Dakota tribal leader convicted on 6 wire fraud counts

A jury on Thursday convicted a former tribal leader in South Dakota of defrauding his tribe out of thousands of dollars.

After a three-day trial, the jury convicted former Oglala Sioux Tribal President Julian Bear Runner, 38, of Pine Ridge, of six counts of wire fraud as well as larceny and embezzlement charges.

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A 2022 federal indictment alleged Bear Runner submitted vouchers while he was president in 2019 and 2020 for work-related travel he didn’t go on, and received about $80,000 in checks, which authorities said he took for his personal use, including gambling and hotel stays.

A jury convicted a former South Dakota tribal leader of defrauding his tribe of thousands of dollars.

“When government leaders abuse positions of power for personal financial gain, it’s the public that pays the price,” South Dakota U.S. Attorney Alison Ramsdell said in a statement. “In this case, Julian Bear Runner stole more than $80,000 from the Oglala Sioux Tribe, embezzling money that could have otherwise been used to improve life for those living throughout the Pine Ridge Reservation.”

The charges’ maximum penalty includes 20 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release, according to Ramsdell’s office. Bear Runner’s sentencing date is yet to be set.

His public defender did not immediately return a phone message for comment.

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Oglala Sioux Tribal President Frank Star Comes Out did not immediately respond to a text message for comment.

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