Jerome Bruce Seaman Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Court
|U.S. Attorney’s Office March 29, 2013|
The United States Attorney’s Office announced that during a federal court session in Great Falls, on March 29, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Sam E. Haddon, Jerome Bruce Seaman, a 61-year-old resident of Poplar, pled guilty to theft from an Indian Tribal organization receiving federal grants, Federal False Claims Act violation, and false writings affecting federal money. Sentencing has been set for July 1, 2013. He is currently released on special conditions.
In an offer of proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl E. Rostad, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
In fiscal year 2010 (October 1, 2009-September 30, 2010), the Fort Peck Community College (FPCC) received $7,357,080 in federal funding, and in fiscal year 2011 (October 1, 2010-September 30, 2011), the college received $8,988,437 in federal funding. These amounts included math and science grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Departments of Education and Energy.
Seaman was a mathematics instructor and grant administrator at the Fort Peck Community College. Seaman’s position at the FPCC as an instructor and grant administrator provided training and meeting opportunities designed to benefit the FPCC and enhance the benefits of the grants that Seaman administered. These opportunities required travel that, since it was job related, was reimbursable from federal grants. Seaman submitted false records related to 12 trips he completed between December 2009 and March 2011. The investigation revealed that Seaman routinely made alternate travel plans, failed to attend any training or conferences for which the travel funding was provided, and made claims against federal and college finances as if he had not engaged in activities that were entirely for his own personal benefit and enrichment. Seaman used fabricated and falsified hotel receipts to support his claims for reimbursement. The total amount of travel funds he received, or otherwise benefitted from, related to those trips was approximately $19,359.23.
In addition to the travel advances and reimbursements paid to Seaman while he was on personal adventure, Seaman also received approximately $9,668.88 in wages from FPCC for the time periods covered by the 12 trips to which he would not have been entitled if the college was aware that he was on what amounted to unauthorized personal leave.
FPCC’s former president advised that Seaman had admitted in meetings—when challenged about the fraudulent travel claims—that he knew the claims were false.
Seaman had originally pled guilty to the first count of the indictment on December 11, 2012. The court accepted his guilty plea but, as is the practice in federal court, reserved a decision on whether to accept the plea agreement until a presentence report was prepared.
On March 18, 2013, because Seaman challenged certain factual allegations in the presentence report that suggested that he be recanting his admission of guilt, the court rejected the plea agreement and allowed Seaman to withdraw his guilty plea to count one.
Trial on all counts was set for April 2, 2013. On March 22, 2013, Seaman moved to change his plea to guilty to the first three counts of the four count indictment without a plea agreement. Today those guilty pleas were accepted and the trial vacated.
Seaman faces possible penalties of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years’ supervised release on the first charge and possible penalties of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years’ supervised release on each of the next two charges.
“I meet regularly with tribal officials on each of Montana’s reservations, and at each meeting, they ask this office to do more to put an end to corruption and theft in the administration of federal grants and programs. I take—and have taken—their pleas to heart when my office created the Guardians Project with just that mission in mind. The change of plea today represents just one of many, many steps this office will take to respond the concerns of our Indian communities for honesty and integrity in tribal government,” stated Michael W. Cotter, United States Attorney for the District of Montana.
The investigation was conducted by a team of agents and auditors working with the U.S. Attorney’s Guardians Project, including the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Interior, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service.