Jury Finds Member of Ho-Chunk Nation Guilty of Bribery and Tax Charges in Connection with Tribal Contracts
|U.S. Attorney’s Office August 02, 2012|
MADISON, WI—John W. Vaudreuil, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Timothy Whiteagle, 60, Black River Falls, Wisconsin, was convicted of bribery and tax crimes today following an eight-day jury trial in federal court in Madison. The jury deliberated for approximately seven hours before finding Whiteagle guilty on all counts.
Whiteagle was convicted of one bribery conspiracy count (five years maximum penalty); eight bribery counts (10 years maximum penalty on each); two counts of filing false tax returns (three years maximum penalty); and one count of obstruction by attempting to persuade a person to lie to the FBI (20 years maximum penalty). U.S. District Judge William M. Conley scheduled sentencing for October 24, 2012.
United States Attorney Vaudreuil stated, “This prosecution demonstrates the commitment by this office and the U.S. Department of Justice to vigorously investigate and prosecute corruption in tribal governments.”
According to the evidence presented at the trial, the Ho-Chunk Nation, an Indian tribal government, operates casinos in the Western District of Wisconsin and annually receives federal grants well in excess of $10,000. Whiteagle is a Ho-Chunk tribal member. From 2002 to 2009, Whiteagle, at times with the assistance of Deborah H. Atherton, 55, Black River Falls, acted covertly as a behind-the-scenes consultant for clients seeking to do business with the Ho-Chunk Nation. The clients included companies that provided cash access services (such as check cashing and ATMs) at Ho-Chunk casinos and a company that sought to provide mortgages and housing for tribal members. Whiteagle received over $3 million dollars from the clients.
Whiteagle gave Clarence Pettibone, 53, Black River Falls, an elected legislator of the Ho-Chunk Nation, money and valuables, and Whiteagle and Atherton solicited clients seeking Ho-Chunk business to do the same. The valuables included checks; money orders; payments to a martial arts studio operated by Pettibone; a Pontiac Firebird; contributions for Pettibone’s re-election campaign; a job for a relative of Pettibone; golf outings; tickets to an NFL football game; visits to adult entertainment venues; auto body work on a car owned by a relative of Pettibone; and vacations for Pettibone and his family members.
Whiteagle and Atherton offered and gave the money and valuables to Pettibone to influence and reward him for helping certain clients do business with the nation; Pettibone knew the money and valuables were given to him to influence and reward him for assisting the clients; Whiteagle and Pettibone consulted with each other about how to use Pettibone’s official position to assist the clients in obtaining and keeping contracts with the Ho-Chunk Nation; and Pettibone, in his official capacity as an elected legislator, took steps to help the clients do business with the Ho-Chunk Nation, such as scheduling of clients’ proposals on the legislature’s agenda, making motions for the nation to enter into contracts with the clients, delaying legislative action, and opposing proposed contracts between the nation and competitors of the clients.
Atherton pleaded guilty on July 9 to conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Her sentencing is scheduled for October 10, 2012. She faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
Pettibone pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe and was sentenced on July 11 to five years in federal prison.
The charges against Whiteagle, Atherton, and Pettibone are the result of a joint investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and IRS-Criminal Investigation, with the assistance from the Ho-Chunk Nation, the Wisconsin Department of Administration-Division of Gaming, and the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs-Office of Inspector General.
The prosecution of this case is being handled by to First Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen P. Sinnott and Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Przybylinski Finn.