GREAT FALLS — Barbara Mary Daychief of Browning, a former board member of the Montana Native Women’s Coalition, admitted in federal court in Billings on Thursday that she stole grant money for unapproved travel to Las Vegas, Nevada.
Acting U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson said in a news release on Friday that Daychief, 43 years old, pleaded guilty to theft of federal funds.
The prosecution said in court documents that the purpose of the Lame Deer-based Coalition is to help Native American victims of domestic and sexual violence. The Coalition receives funding from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), which provides grants for victim services.
While serving on the Coalition’s board, Daychief received travel advances for travel to various locations. In November of 2017, Daychief claimed $1,874.18 in travel money for a trip to Las Vegas, Nevada. All travel funds provided to Daychief were funds from OVW.
Although initially intending to travel to the claimed destinations, Daychief ultimately did not travel as planned. Rather than pay back the travel advances as required, Daychief kept the money for herself. When interviewed by law enforcement, Daychief admitted she obtained travel advances despite not traveling as claimed. Because Daychief has kept the federal funds for approximately three years, her actions intentionally deprived OVW from using the federal funds for other desired purposes.
Daychief faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release. U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Cavan presided, and continued Daychief’s release pending further proceedings. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ryan Weldon and Bryan Dake are prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General.