April 23, 2015

Indictment Unsealed Charging Shawnee Man for Embezzling from the Citizen Pottawatomie Nation

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK—A federal grand jury indictment was unsealed today charging THOMAS BIERD, 35, from Shawnee, Oklahoma, with embezzlement from the Citizen Pottawatomie Nation, announced Sanford C. Coats, United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.

The Citizen Pottawatomie Nation’s included the Community Development Corporation (CDC), which promoted economic development in the Native American community by providing business loans and grants to companies owned by or which primarily employed members of Federally-recognized Indian tribes. Kristi Bias (a/k/a Kristi Coker), 41, from Shawnee, was employed as the Executive Director of the CDC. The indictment alleges that between December, 2010, and September, 2011, Bias and Bierd aided and abetted each other by devising a scheme to embezzle funds from the CDC. Specifically, it is alleged that in her capacity as Executive Director, Bias would cause a check to be issued by the CDC to an entity controlled by Bierd or to an individual specified by Bierd. Bias, it is alleged, would cause false documentation to be placed in the CDC’s file, making it appear that the checks were for the legitimate purposes of the CDC when in fact they were not, and Bierd would kick back a portion of the check proceeds to Bias.

If convicted, Bierd faces up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and payment of restitution to the Tribe. The public is reminded that an indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Each defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Bierd was arrested earlier today and appeared this afternoon in federal court. He was released on bond and the Court set the trial date for June of 2015.

In a separate case, Kristi Bias was charged on November 7, 2014, and pled guilty to embezzlement from the Tribe on November 25, 2014. She is awaiting sentencing where she also faces up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and payment of restitution to the Tribe.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Ogilvie.