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Former Winnebago tribal officer pleads guilty to theft
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Former Winnebago tribal officer pleads guilty to theft

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OMAHA | The second of nine former Winnebago Tribal Council members charged with theft from the tribe's casino has pleaded guilty.

Louis Houghton, 70, entered his guilty plea Monday in U.S. District Court in Omaha to one count of theft from a gaming establishment on Indian lands. Sentencing was set for Aug. 14.

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As part of a plea agreement, which has yet to be approved by a judge, federal prosecutors will recommend that Houghton be placed on five years probation and ordered to repay any money he received illegally. Charges of conspiracy and wire fraud would be dismissed.

Lawrence Payer, 71, pleaded guilty earlier this month to the same charge. Prosecutors have agreed to recommend he be sentenced to probation.

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

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

The case stemmed from a 2015 tribal investigative report. In the wake of that report, the nine resigned or were ousted from office by newly elected council members.

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