OMAHA | A former Winnebago Tribal Council member on Monday was placed on probation for theft from the tribe's casino.

Earlier in the day, the fourth of nine former council members charged in the case pleaded guilty.

Lawrence Payer, 71, had pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Omaha in May to theft from a gaming establishment on Indian lands. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp placed him on five years probation and ordered him to pay $36,000 in restitution. As part of a plea agreement, charges of conspiracy and wire fraud were dismissed.

Payer is the first of the nine charged to be sentenced.

Thomas Snowball pleaded guilty Monday to theft from a gaming establishment on Indian lands. His sentence was not spelled out in the plea agreement. Sentencing was scheduled for Nov. 6.

In July 2016, a federal grand jury indicted Payer, Snowball, Louis Houghton, Charles Aldrich, Darwin Snyder, Travis Mallory, Morgan Earth, Ramona Wolfe and former tribal chairman John Blackhawk. Each was charged with conspiracy, theft from a gaming establishment on Indian lands and wire fraud.

Hougton and Aldrich have pleaded guilty to theft. Both await sentencing.

An FBI investigation determined that while on the tribal council, the nine had given themselves raises and bonuses totaling $327,500 directly from the tribe's WinnaVegas Casino Resort without approving them at council meetings. The FBI found that in 2013 and 2014, the nine council members were issued $87,000 in gift certificates by the casino and uploads to prepaid debit cards paid for by the casino totaling $240,500. The distributions were recorded on the casino's books as miscellaneous administrative expenses.

The case stemmed from a 2015 tribal investigation that led to the nine either resigning or being ousted from office by newly elected council members.


Court reporter

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