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Oglala Lakota officials indicted

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RAPID CITY, S.D. - Three council members, the housing director, a housing employee and some of their spouses were indicted for conspiracy to embezzle, steal, convert to their own use and misapply funds that belonged to the Oglala Sioux Tribal Housing Authority.

A federal grand jury handed down a 13-count indictment and a separate six-count indictment against Manuel Fool Head and Sandra Fool Head. Manuel is presently a tribal council member from the Medicine Root District. The others charged with conspiracy and theft from a tribal organization include Gerald "Jump" Big Crow, his wife Elizabeth "Jackie" Big Crow; Marling G. "Moon" Weston and Evelyn Weston; Paul Iron Cloud and Ted Pedregon and Ramona Pedregon.

All were charged with conspiracy to commit theft from a tribal organization. The Fool Heads have additional charges of larceny and false statements added to their indictments.

The FBI seized Oglala tribal housing authority records Jan. 15. The next day a group of tribal members that referred to themselves as the Grass Roots Oyate took over the tribal building with the demands of complete tribal record audits. These indictments are not part of that investigation.

The housing authority investigation has been ongoing and U.S. Attorney Ted McBride said the investigation continues.

Iron Cloud, "Jump" Big Crow, "Moon" Weston and Ted Pedregon conspired by making false statements, misrepresented and omitted pertinent information about family income while they lived in low-income tribal housing, court documents show.

Big Crow also is accused of owing $57,000 in back rent.

Manuel Fool Head is accused of misapplying $157,800 in tribal assistance funds. The indictment states that from the spring of 1999 through Dec. 31, 1999, he requested the funds from the account used to assist tribal members. Each tribal councilman is allowed $6,000 for such purposes.

Fool Head is accused of ordering general assistance fund checks issued to his wife's sister, Cheryl Ann Wright, from June 1, 1999, to Aug. 31. 1999. The checks were to the name of Cheryl Forney, Wright's maiden name, and also to Ann Forney. The Fool Heads also are accused of forging signatures on the back of the checks "to convert the money to for their own use," the indictment stated. The checks were issued, forged and cashed without Wright's knowledge, the indictment states. The Fool Heads were charged with six federal counts.

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The Fool Heads are further accused of misrepresenting where they lived after they were married. Manuel moved in with Sandra, the indictment asserts, but on July 21, 1998, Sandra Fool Head did not report her husband's income and failed to list him as a resident in a report to the housing authority.

Court documents state that Big Crow failed to report a change in income by not including his wife's income. Iron Cloud is accused of allowing the co-conspirators to live in the low-income housing with the knowledge they were not paying the housing authority the amount due, court documents claim.

In addition, the indictment states that Iron Cloud assured the housing authority board of directors that the authority was in compliance with all policies and procedures and that any tenant back rents were being collected. Iron Cloud is also accused of directing the housing authority's tenant contract compliance officer to refrain from collecting back rents owed by tribal council members, including defendants Big Crow and Weston.

Iron Cloud is also accused of instructing housing authority staff members not to provide board members with information on back rents by telling them that information was confidential. Iron Cloud has been executive director of the housing authority since Feb. 19, 1993, and is currently still in that position.

Weston is accused of not paying rent from 1989 until present. Iron Cloud also is accused of waiving Weston's rent payments.

The indictment states that Iron Cloud, when it became known there was an investigation underway, directed housing authority employees to falsify Weston's tenant file and other tenant files "to conceal back rent that was owed." Weston, Iron Cloud's nephew, was hired in March 1993 for the Maintenance and Modernization Department of the housing authority, the federal documents state.

Prior to Pedregon's employment, he lived in tribal housing. signed a rent agreement that did not include his wife's income on three separate occasions. He and his wife, Ramona, are listed on six counts of the indictment. Pedregon also falsely stated to the authority that no back rent was owed on a low-rent unit for which he was receiving a subsidy. The indictment accused him of stating information on the unit was up to date, when in fact it was not.

Big Crow and his wife, Elizabeth, are listed on six counts of the indictment. The Westons are listed on three counts.

If convicted, the maximum penalty is five years in jail and a $250,000 fine for each indictment. As of Aug. 24 no court hearing date had been set.