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Embezzlement and Theft from Indian Tribes

Businessman putting the envelope into his suit pocket - corruption and embezzlement concepts

Don’t Experiment. Call Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Dr. Nick Oberheiden Today and Enjoy Life Again: 888-680-1745

Meet attorney Dr. Nick Oberheiden. Licensed in all federal courts in Oklahoma, North Dakota, and many other jurisdictions, Nick dedicates his entire practice to defending clients in federal criminal investigations. This focus produces results. Nick has appeared in federal courts, federal grand jury proceedings, at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and at the FBI across the United States—including in North Dakota, Oklahoma, Michigan, Arizona, California, Minnesota, New Mexico, Wisconsin, New York, Washington, and Utah.

  • Grand Jury Investigation v. Client: No Charges.
  • Grand Jury Investigation v. Client: No Charges.
  • Grand Jury Investigation v. Client: No Charges.
  • Grand Jury Investigation v. Client: No Charges.
  • FBI Investigation v. Client: No Charges.
  • FBI Investigation v. Client: No Charges.
  • FBI Investigation v. Client: No Charges.
  • FBI Investigation v. Client: No Charges.
  • FBI Investigation v. Client: No Charges.
  • FBI Investigation v. Client: No Charges.

Nothing is easier than speaking with Nick. Nick does not delegate your case, he will not wall you off with secretaries nor will he experiment with your freedom. Free and confidential consultations are available, including on weekends. The sooner you call for free advice, the sooner you get reliable answers to your most pressing questions. Today is a great day to call 888-680-1745!

What Are Commonly Prosecuted Schemes Involving Tribal or Federal Funds?

Most federal investigations involving Indian tribes center around theft or embezzlement of tribal funds or misappropriation of federal funds as detailed below. Additionally, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Office of Indian Tribal Governments, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Division (IRS-CI) are investigating the following offenses with particular attention:

  • Theft, Embezzlement, Misappropriation of Tribal Funds
  • Theft, Embezzlement, Misappropriation of Federal Funds
  • Embezzlement from Tribal Enterprises
  • Use of Tribal Credit Cards for Personal Gain
  • Misrepresentation of Federal Status of Tribe to Obtain Tax Advantages
  • Misrepresentation of Treaty Laws to Claim Improper Tax Relief
  • Claiming Non-Resident Alien Status Through the Filing of False Forms W-8BEN
  • Use of Casino Comps for Purposes Unrelated to Gaming Play
  • Improper Sheltering of Taxable Gains
  • Disguising of Corporate Structures to Evade Federal Unemployment Taxes

What Happens in a Federal Investigation Involving Tribes and Federal Funds?

Most investigations involving tribal or federal funds begin with rumors of tribal police officers or FBI agents attempting to interview witnesses as part of an open investigation. If the FBI agents believe that they have a case, they will pitch their investigation to an Assistant United States Attorney, that is a federal criminal prosecutor working at the U.S. Attorney’s Office or a prosecutor at the U.S. Department of Justice headquarter in Washington D.C.

If the case gets assigned to a prosecutor, then the prosecutor will eventually convene a grand jury to determine whether or not to bring federal charges against targeted individuals. The agencies the most involved in a federal criminal tribal investigation are:

  • The U.S. Department of Justice
  • The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Oklahoma
  • The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of North Dakota
  • Agents and Investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Tribal Police Officers & Tribal Investigators

What Are the Penalties for Tribal Embezzlement?

The theft, embezzlement, criminal conversion and willful misapplication of funds or property of a tribal organization constitutes a federal felony if the amount taken exceeds $ 100.00. Federal statute 18 U.S.C. 1163, which applies to both Indians and non-Indians and covers tribal embezzlement offenses whether committed in or outside of Indian country, reads in its pertinent parts as follows:

Whoever embezzles, steals, knowingly converts to his use or the use of another, willfully misapplies, or willfully permits to be misapplied, any of the moneys, funds, credits, goods, assets, or other property belonging to any Indian tribal organization or entrusted to the custody or care of any officer, employee, or agent of an Indian tribal organization; or
Whoever, knowing any such moneys, funds, credits, goods, assets, or other property to have been so embezzled, stolen, converted, misapplied or permitted to be misapplied, receives, conceals, or retains the same with intent to convert it to his use or the use of another—
Shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than five years, or both; but if the value of such property does not exceed the sum of $ 1,000, he shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
As used in this section, the term “Indian tribal organization” means any tribe, band, or community of Indians which is subject to the laws of the United States relating to Indian affairs or any corporation, association, or group which is organized under any such laws.

The burden of proof remains with the government. Federal prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt each and every of the above elements of the offense. If convicted, violations of this statute can trigger severe penalties. A defendant guilty of tribal embezzlement faces up to five years in federal prison. Additionally, criminal fines may apply according to 18 U.S.C. 3571. As with all federal criminal offenses, the exact punishment will be subject to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and the calculated penalty recommendation by a U.S. Probation officer. In general, the higher the theft amount, the higher the expected imprisonment.

Put our highly experienced team on your side

Dr. Nick Oberheiden
Dr. Nick Oberheiden



Lynette S. Byrd
Lynette S. Byrd

Former DOJ Trial Attorney


Brian J. Kuester
Brian J. Kuester

Former U.S. Attorney

Amanda Marshall
Amanda Marshall

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

Joe Brown
Joe Brown

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

John W. Sellers
John W. Sellers

Former Senior DOJ Trial Attorney

Linda Julin McNamara
Linda Julin McNamara

Federal Appeals Attorney

Aaron L. Wiley
Aaron L. Wiley

Former DOJ attorney

Local Counsel

Roger Bach
Roger Bach

Former Special Agent (DOJ)

Chris Quick
Chris J. Quick

Former Special Agent (FBI & IRS-CI)

Michael S. Koslow
Michael S. Koslow

Former Supervisory Special Agent (DOD-OIG)

Ray Yuen
Ray Yuen

Former Supervisory Special Agent (FBI)

What Are the Penalties for Embezzling from a Federally Funded Program?

A defendant guilty of theft, bribery, or embezzlement in connection with or from a federally funded program may face up to ten years in federal prison. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines will serve as the basis for the calculated penalty recommendation. As it is true with all federal embezzlement or theft, sentences increase proportionate to the theft amount in question.

Whoever…being an agent of an organization, or of a State, government, or Indian tribal government, or any agency thereof…embezzles, steals, obtains by fraud, or otherwise without authority knowingly converts to the use of any person other than the rightful owner or intentionally misapplies, property that is valued at $ 5,000 or more and is owned by, or is under the care, custody, or control of such organization, government, or agency; or corruptly solicits or demands for the benefit of any person, or accepts or agrees to accept, anything of value  from any person, intending to be influenced or rewarded in connection with any business, transaction, or series of transaction of such organization, government, or agency involving any thing of value of $ 5,000 or more…shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

The burden of proof remains with the government. The government must prove each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

What Are Defenses to Tribal Theft & Embezzlement?

Over the years, courts have held that a number of conceivable defenses do not apply under 18 U.S.C. 1163. For example, the influential Second Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed in United States v. Markiewicz, 978 F.2d 786 (2nd Cir. 1992) that it is no defense that the offense was committed by an Indian despite the plausible argument that could have been derived of 18 U.S.C. 1152 (2). It is further well established that tribal sovereignty does not protect against complying with a federal subpoena or being required to respond to a federal grand jury proceeding. In other words, if you receive a federal grand jury subpoena, your status as an Indian or your location on Indian land is not a defense and you are required to accept service and answer to the grand jury. See United States v. Boggs, 439 F.Supp. 1050 (D.Mont. 1980). Similarly, since a legislative enactment in 1986, it is established that 18 U.S.C. 666, which, as seen above, governs the theft and embezzlement from federally funded organizations in excess of $ 5,000.00, also applies to Indian tribes.

In light of these restrictions, it is of critical importance to work with qualified and knowledgeable counsel from the beginning to save inefficient arguments and to hone the defense strategy instead to things and arguments that do work. Consider how attorney Dr. Nick Oberheiden has handled hundreds of federal fraud and federal financial crime cases— an experience you can rely on.

What Are Signs that I am Under Investigation?

Most people sooner or later become aware of an investigation. Some, because it is obvious, for example, the FBI showed up for an interview or a Tribal officer served a subpoena; others, because they hear rumors about investigators trying to interview affiliates, family members, friends, customers, co-workers, or others in the close or extended circle of friends.

What Should I Do If I Receive a Grand Jury Subpoena?

One clear indication that there is indeed an investigation is when the U.S. Attorney’s Office issues so-called grand jury subpoenas. Purpose of the grand jury, which operates outside of the public, is to determine who should be charged with a federal felony. To arrive at such a decision, the grand jury needs information. Information in this context can be testimony from witnesses but also the request to produce documents or other tangible information. If you receive a grand jury subpoena, you should immediately visit with an attorney to make sure you are not turning from witness to target.

At What Point Should I Hire a Lawyer?

You should at least consult with experienced counsel from the very first moment you have reason to suspect a pending investigation, whether by Tribal police or by the FBI, against you or one of your acquaintances. The earlier competent counsel is involved, the higher the chances for a favorable outcome. Put differently, the more time you give the government to find something, the more likely it is they might actually pursue a lead. Stopping a case can only be accomplished with your help, that is with your phone call to a lawyer of your trust.

How To Select an Embezzlement Defense Attorney

What Questions Should I Ask My Lawyer?

You can’t expect a dentist to help you with your spine surgery— and you can’t expect an attorney with little to none experience in federal cases to know the ins and outs of an FBI investigation. To provide some guidance in the maze of lawyer candidates, here are some questions you may want to ask the lawyer before signing a retainer agreement.

  • How Many FBI Investigations Have You Personally Handled?
  • What Is the Percentage of Your Last 500 Federal Cases that Resulted in “No Charges” for Your Client?
  • Specifically, What Is Your Legal Experience with Respect to Theft, Embezzlement, and Federal Fraud
  • What Is Your Knowledge About the Laws Applicable to Indian Tribes?
  • If I Hire Your Firm, Who Will Actually Be My Lawyer and Point of Contact?

Obviously, there are more questions to ask. The point here is to lock your lawyer candidate in to make sure that you get concrete answers to your on-point questions challenging the lawyer’s experience and track record in federal cases.

How Much Does It Cost Me to Pay for a Lawyer?

At Oberheiden PC, clients and lawyers discuss prices rather than retainer fees being simply imposed on the client. Because everyone’s financial situation is different and because it is often not clear in the beginning of a case where the investigation stands and how much work is needed to resolve the matter, we, at Oberheiden PC like to start small and then work with the client as we move forward. Sounds fair? Give Nick a call at 888-680-1745 and see how he can help you.

Call Nick Today— Get a Free Consultation from an Attorney that Actually Understands How FBI Investigations Work: 888-680-1745

Why Clients Trust Oberheiden P.C.

  • 95% Success Rate
  • 2,000+ Cases Won
  • Available Nights & Weekends
  • Experienced Trial Attorneys
  • Former Department of Justice Trial Attorneys
  • Former Federal Prosecutors, U.S. Attorney’s Office
  • Former Agents from FBI, OIG, DEA
  • Cases Handled in 48 States
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