fbpx
facebook app symbol  twitter  linkedin  instagram 1
 

Julian Bear Runner, 38, who served as president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe from 2018 to 2020, was convicted of six criminal counts on Thursday, April 4, 2024, following a three-day jury trial in federal district court in Rapid City, South Dakota. 

Bear Runner was convicted of wire fraud, one count of larceny, and one count of embezzlement and theft from an Indian tribal organization.

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

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, South Dakota District, prosecuted the case. Evidence presented to the jury showed that between January of 2019 and January of 2020, Bear Runner, while acting in his capacity as president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, fraudulently submitted travel vouchers for official business travel. He then received payment for travel that he was not entitled to because he was not actually traveling. 

The evidence 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 actually go on the trips. Instead, Bear Runner cashed the checks at a casino, gambled, and stayed in local hotels.

Never miss Indian Country’s biggest stories and breaking news. Sign up to get our reporting sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning. 
 

The fraudulent travel authorizations totaled approximately $80,000.

“When government leaders abuse positions of power for personal financial gain, it’s the public that pays the price,” Alison J. Ramsdell, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota said in a statement. “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. We are grateful to our partners at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and the FBI for conducting a fulsome investigation of Bear Runner’s fraudulent activities and helping us secure today’s swift verdict.”

When he was elected, Bear Runner was the second-youngest person ever elected as the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s president.  He lost re-election in 2020 to former state senator Kevin Killer.

More Stories Like This

Former Sault Ste. Marie Chairperson Aaron Payment Making Comeback in Tribal Politics
California Assembly Passes Three Bills Aimed to Reduce Disproportionate Rates of Violence Against Native Americans
Eight Saint Regis Mohawk Citizens Arrested in Landback Protest
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to Host Hearing on Public Safety in Indian Country
Native Bidaské with Kevin Sharp on Leonard Peltier’s Upcoming Parole Hearing

These stories must be heard.

This May, we are highlighting our coverage of Indian boarding schools and their generational impact on Native families and Native communities. Giving survivors of boarding schools and their descendants the opportunity to share their stories is an important step toward healing — not just because they are speaking, but because they are being heard. Their stories must be heard. Help our efforts to make sure Native stories and Native voices are heard in 2024. Please consider a recurring donation to help fund our ongoing coverage of Indian boarding schools. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous-centered journalism. Thank you.

About The Author
Levi Rickert
Author: Levi RickertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].