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PRESS RELEASE: Former Healy Lake Tribe First Chief And Tribal Administrator Sentenced For Conversion Of Federal Government And Tribal Fund

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Alaska
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 5, 2016

Former Healy Lake Tribe First Chief And Tribal Administrator Sentenced For Conversion Of Federal Government And Tribal Fund

Anchorage, Alaska – U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced today that a Fairbanks woman was sentenced on Friday, February 5, 2016, in federal court in Fairbanks after being found guilty of converting federal government and tribal funds to her own use.

JoAnn Polston, 60, of Fairbanks, Alaska, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ralph R. Beistline to three years’ probation with special conditions including 90 days home confinement and cooperation with representatives of the Healy Lake Tribe concerning whereabouts and disposition of tribal funds, and payment of restitution of $4,577.61 to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and $102,860.20 to the Healy Lake Tribe. Polston had pled guilty in September 2015.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Yvonne Lamoureux, who prosecuted the case, noted that according to filings with the court, between 2009 and 2012, Polston knowingly converted to her own use money belonging to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Healy Lake Tribe. Specifically, Polston, as the First Chief and Tribal Administrator for the Healy Lake Tribe, abused her position of trust to write herself checks and transfer money from the Tribe’s bank accounts to her personal bank account. Polston also submitted and received per diem payments from the BIA in the amount of $4,577.61 to which she was not entitled because Polston had previously paid herself per diem payments from the Healy Lake Tribe’s bank accounts for the same trips. Between August 2009 and May 2012, Polston knowingly converted the Tribe’s money to her own use by writing herself checks and transferring money into her account in the amount of at least $10,914.20. Between May 2009 and June 2013, Polston also paid herself $91,946.00 without backup documentation, above and beyond her salary payments or other authorized payments.

In sentencing Polston, Judge Beistline noted that misuse of federal funds jeopardizes other native and rural communities that receive federal funds.

“The results of this prosecution reflect the Department of Interior Office of Inspector General’s commitment to pursue fraud involving the Department’s programs and its commitment to its trust responsibility to Native Americans,” said U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Inspector General Special Agent in Charge David House. “Public corruption in Native American communities is especially egregious because it usually comes at the expense of vital tribal programs intended for the benefit of the entire tribal community.”

Ms. Loeffler commends the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of the Interior Office of Inspector General for conducting the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Polston.

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