Justice caught up with the former head of the Rocky Mountain Indian Chamber of Commerce (RMICC) July 12 in Denver District Court when, despite his earlier assertions of innocence, he pleaded guilty to charges of theft from RMICC, including felony theft of more than $20,000, and avoided a jury trial.
Joshua Running Wolf, 32, of the Blackfeet Nation, Browning, Montana, has been ordered to repay the RMICC $30,000 in restitution before his sentencing October 11 or the felony theft charge will remain on his permanent record and he will serve jail time, according to a deputy district attorney.
Potential penalties for the crimes are up to 24 years incarceration and up to a $750,000 fine for the major theft conviction and up to 18 months in county jail with a $5,000 maximum fine for conviction on a charge of misdemeanor theft of more than $1,000, an amount cited by the prosecution.
Dee St. Cyr, Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and RMICC board chairwoman, said justice prevailed “but there are no winners in this case.” Running Wolf was offered the opportunity to serve as president, but in that capacity he “stole large sums of money from the very people who supported him.” RMCC will continue to provide services to the Native business community, she said.
Deb Emhoolah, Kiowa, RMICC board of directors secretary, said “RMICC is stronger, in a better place and we are looking forward to a successful future for RMICC.”
Don Kelin, of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma and a RMICC member, said Running Wolf “embezzled funds from what little dollars the [RMICC] had and embezzled funds from the education funds for our youth” as he “continued with lies to the Indian community about what happened.”
According to the charges to which Running Wolf pleaded, the thefts occurred in a period that began in 2011, about three years after he said he became RMICC president. The matter came to light when “we were doing audits,” he said in an interview shortly after his arrest. He said at that time that he was “not too sure” about the charges against him but that he was not aware of doing anything wrong.
The amount of total restitution was placed at $115,152.