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Nooksack Indian Tribe of Washington

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Two former tribal officials, Roswell Cline and Lane Warbus, entered guilty pleas May 5 in federal court in Seattle to two misdemeanor counts of embezzlement, theft, conversion of funds and misapplication of funds. They could each receive one year in prison under a plea bargain. At issue were their activities in 1995 and 1996, when Cline was Nooksack tribal administrator and a council member and Warbus was assistant administrator. The original indictment accused Cline of taking $41,388 and Warbus of taking $30,000. They faced 12 counts of embezzlement and one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government. A 1998 Bellingham Herald investigation based on federal documents found 61 tribal employees received cash payments from administrators, in addition to their paychecks, from a fund set up as unemployment relief. Last summer, Nooksack tribal officials said some recipients had repaid the money at issue. Warbus and Cline pleaded guilty to embezzling less than $2,000 each. They also admitted transferring $400,000 of federal money into the tribe's unemployment compensation plan, apparently without referral to the tribal council for a vote. If a judge approves the plea agreement at sentencing, expected in late July, federal prosecutors will endorse proposed sentences of one year and a day in prison, and fines up to $42,000 each.