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Former Oglala Sioux Tribe President Julian Bear Runner pleaded not guilty to eight counts of wire fraud, larceny, embezzlement and theft in a federal court hearing on Friday. 

Bear Runner, 37, is accused of stealing $80,000 from the Tribe during the time he served as its president. He appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Daneta Wollman in Rapid City, S.D. on February 24, 2023, following an indictment last fall on six counts of wire fraud, one court of larceny and one count of embezzlement and theft from an Indian Tribal organization, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.  

During the one-year period between January 2019 through January 2020, Bear Runner allegedly scheduled official travel and received checks for airline flights, hotels and food despite the fact he was not traveling, according to court documents.  

“Despite knowing he had not traveled and that he was not entitled to the travel funds, Bear Runner fraudulently submitted vouchers claiming he was going to travel and was entitled to travel funds. Bear Runner would then take the travel checks and would use the embezzled funds for his own personal use, including cashing the checks and spending the funds at the Prairie Wind Casino on the Pine Ridge Reservation,” the indictment alleges.  

If convicted, Bear Runner could face a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in custody and/or a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. Restitution may also be ordered.

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A trial date has been scheduled for May 2, 2023.

Bear Runner served as president of the Oglala Sioux from 2018 to 2020.  When he was elected, he was the second-youngest person ever elected as the Tribe’s president.  He lost re-election in 2020 to former state senator Kevin Killer.

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