Former Oglala Sioux Tribe president convicted of stealing $80,000 from tribe

April 5, 2024

RAPID CITY – United States Attorney Alison J. Ramsdell announced that a jury has convicted 38 year-old Julian Bear Runner of Pine Ridge, South Dakota of six counts of Wire Fraud, one count of Larceny, and one count of Embezzlement and Theft from an Indian Tribal Organization following a three-day jury trial in federal district court in Rapid City.

The verdict was returned on Thursday.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in custody and/or a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, and a $800 special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.

Bear Runner was indicted by a federal grand jury in September of 2022. Between January of 2019 and January of 2020, at Pine Ridge, Bear Runner, while acting in his
capacity as President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, fraudulently submitted travel vouchers for official business travel and received payment for travel that he was not entitled to as he was not actually traveling.

The evidence at trial showed that Bear Runner submitted multiple travel authorizations to different locations outside South Dakota, including New Mexico, Montana, Ohio, North Carolina,
New York, and Arizona, claiming the need to travel for official business. As a result of those travel authorizations, Bear Runner received thousands of dollars in advance travel payments but did not go on the travel. Instead, Bear Runner cashed the checks at a casino, gambled, and stayed in local hotels.

“When government leaders abuse positions of power for personal financial gain, it’s the public that pays the price,” said Alison J. Ramsdell, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota. “In this case, Julian Bear Runner stole more than $80,000 from the Oglala Sioux Tribe, embezzling money that could have otherwise been used to improve life for those living throughout the Pine Ridge Reservation.”