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Trial date is set for former tribal deputy court clerk

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Robyn Flowers of Wagner, indicted by a federal grand jury last month on charges of embezzling funds from the Yankton Sioux Tribe, is scheduled to go on trial Jan. 3.

The 31-year-old former deputy tribal court clerk was arrested Nov. 2 by agents of the FBI and the BIA and pleaded not guilty to the charge in federal court. Flowers was released after her court appearance on an unsecured bond.

Flowers, who told federal Magistrate John Simco she had worked in the office nearly two years, is charged with taking money between December 1998 and October 1999. The exact amount has not been determined.

Yankton Sioux Tribal Clerk of Courts David Bernie said it was difficult to determine how much money - funds collected for court costs, restitution and fines in connection with criminal convictions - was missing since the records had been compromised.

Bernie said his office first was alerted to financial discrepancies after receiving a call from a casino about a $1,000 check written from the clerk of court's office to the casino.

An investigation revealed receipts and money collected for fines were missing along with pages from a receipt book used to record fine payments from people to the clerk's office.

He said Flowers was dismissed shortly after the investigation.

"I was out sick for a couple of weeks. When I came back, a check was cashed that shouldn't have been, for about $1,000. That's how I caught on to what was going on. After I noticed that, I started checking into other things. Pages were missing in receipt books," he said.

Someone contracted the office to verify that payment of a fine was recorded, but the clerk's office couldn't find a record of the payment. A receipt for the payment was later presented as proof, Bernie said.

He suggested the case might not go to the jury in January because he said officials have indicated Flowers is likely to change her plea.

The clerk said he is working to restore public trust in the office because a similar event involving another deputy court clerk took place in 1997.

Complicating matters further are the people who claim to have paid the court fees and fail to do so, he said, since the receipts are often the only record of payments.

Bernie said people who have paid court fees may need to present receipts at the office to be certain they are properly credited.