After nearly a year of rescheduling, a former tribal coordinator and a secretary for the Native Village of Savoonga were sentenced on federal charges for stealing more than $83,000 in federal funds meant for roadwork and repair of damages from a severe winter storm in 2010.
Sylvia Toolie, 60, and Peggy Akeya, 57, sisters, were both formally charged in November 2016 with two counts of embezzlement of federal agency funds received by a tribal government.
Both women entered plea agreements at the time of their arraignments. At the time, Chief U.S. District Judge Timothy M. Burgess explained to Toolie and Akeya that it was his job to review the sentencing guidelines and review the plea agreements submitted by their attorneys and decide whether to deliver possible sentences of up to five or 10 years or to prescribe lesser punishments.
On Sept. 13 Burgess sentenced Toolie, former Savoonga tribal coordinator employed by Kawerak Inc., to serve eight months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. During Toolie’s sentencing Burgess underscored the “exponential impact” that these crimes have had on Savoonga. Burgess told the court that he chose this sentence in part to send a clear message that stealing tribal or public funds will be met with “significant [and] serious consequences that include going to jail.”
Absent Kawerak’s prior approval, Toolie was not permitted to be paid by the tribe at all. Toolie used her position of trust to obtain numerous unauthorized checks from the tribe. In all, Toolie tried to fraudulently obtain roughly $83,000 of the tribe’s funds, and actually pocketed $69,563.07, according to court records.
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