The final two of nine defendants in the investigation of financial fraud by the Omaha Tribal Council have pleaded guilty to federal charges.
United States Attorney Joe Kelly has announced that former Omaha Tribal Council members 44-year-old Doran Morris, Jr. and 70-year-old Mitchell Parker have pleaded guilty to converting and misapplying funds of a health care benefit program in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 669.
The federal indictment against the nine tribal members accuses them of paying nearly $400,000 in bonuses and incentives in a nearly $9 million federal health contract, rather than spending the money on tribal health care.
Federal prosecutors say the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska filed Contract Disputes Act claims against the Indian Health Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Claims filed in 2005 and 2012 asked for reimbursement of unpaid contract support costs from 1995 to 2011. Total claims reached approximately $8.9 million.
The federal indictment claims the defendants paid a total of $388,792.44 in bonuses and incentives to themselves and several other tribal employees in October of 2012, even though claims against the Indian Health Service weren’t resolved until late 2015. The money came from carryover funds from the 2012 Fiscal Year contract with IHS.
Prosecutors says the money was supposed to be used to provide health care to Omaha Tribe members through the Carl T. Curtis Health Education Center.
In addition to Morris and Parker, Omaha Tribe employees 48-year-old Jessica Webster and 66-year-old Barbara Freemont as well as former Omaha Tribal Council members 57-year-old Amen Sheridan, 64-year-old Rodney Morris, 68-year-old Forrest Aldrich, 49-year-old Tillie Aldrich, and 54-year-old Jeff Miller previously entered their guilty pleas in June and July.
The indictment alleges that Jessica Webster and Barbara Freemont each received bonuses of $89,692.92, while Amen Sheridan, Rodney Morris, Doran Morris, Jr., Forrest Aldrich, Mitchell Parker, Jeff Miller and Tillie Aldrich, as tribal council members, each received bonuses of $13,404.44. In addition, Jeff Miller received an additional amount of $26,809.32.