Guilty: Woman used $174,290 of Alaska Native Harbor Seal Commission grants to pad lifestyle - Must Read Alaska
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Saturday, July 24, 2021
HomeThe 907Guilty: Woman used $174,290 of Alaska Native Harbor Seal Commission grants to pad lifestyle

Guilty: Woman used $174,290 of Alaska Native Harbor Seal Commission grants to pad lifestyle

An Alaska woman has pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $175,000 from the Alaska Native Harbor Seal Commission. The commission was primarily funded through federal grants issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but NOAA says it has not been operational since 2017. Since the embezzlement incident, it appears to have folded and its website is no longer operational.

According to court documents, Joni Raelle Bryant, 44, embezzled the funds from ANHSC for her personal use between July 2014 and October 2016. Bryant was employed as the executive director of the commission and was responsible for managing federal grants, as well as the day-to-day financial management of the organization. The group stopped posting information on its Facebook page in August of 2016, and appeared to go dormant.

The grants were intended to support tribal nonprofits in collecting harbor seal and Steller sea lion harvest data as well as conduct bio sampling to monitor the health of marine mammal populations in Alaska.

Bryant embezzled the money by using the organization’s checking account and credit cards to make unauthorized personal purchases and cash withdrawals. The unauthorized expenditures included paying for personal travel for herself and family, personal purchases at various retail stores, gas and grocery purchases, wireless service charges and paying personal insurance and utility bills.

Bryant pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement from an Alaska tribal organization.

As part of the plea agreement, Bryant has agreed to pay restitution to NOAA in the amount of $174,290.67. She is scheduled to be sentenced on September 17 and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, up to $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation leading to the charges in this case, with assistance from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Inspector General and the Anchorage Police Department.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Tip of the proverbial iceberg. She probably has a Ferrari parked in a storage unit in Attu. Throw her away, and the key.

  • The Alaska legislators are messing up the budgeting efforts and not distributing funds to indicated recipients as have been identified by the corporate PFD state bylaws and are receiving extravagant financial rewards/per diem for it. Isn’t that embezzling too? Further, the legislators feel they are messing up perfectly and couldn’t do it any more perfectly. I wish a court of justice could be asked to inquire about that. Perhaps a US Senator can ask for a Congressional investigation and hearing can be conducted since the state won’t check on this.

  • As usual the scales of justice grind exceedingly fine against persons of the land not so much for more normative archetypes.

  • Send this thief adrift, Attu is much to cozy.

  • Excuse me? What about the victims of the theft, also Alaska Native and all Alaskans? Why should criminals of different races be treated special? I personally would love to see the indian health service repayment money that was used for bonuses in Alaska be paid back to the programs and the Alaskan tribal administrators to be held accountable for taking it like the tribal executives in the lower 48? When is committing crimes against our programs also be considered crimes against people especially in healthcare? Unbelievable. Support Tribal ANCSA ANILCA IHS BIA BIE interior Nonprofit Accountability Equality Modernization and Uniform Harmonization of Laws.

  • Wow, paying for personal travel and for the whole family too? I guess if you are the big boss AND in control of finances too then anything is possible eh? Reminds me right now of a few organizations with no systems of checks and balances in place, I guess it’s their fault they set them selves up for it. Here’s a good song: “bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do when they come for you…”

  • Excuse me g aleutian What about the victims of the theft, also Alaska Native and all Alaskans? Why should criminals of different races be treated special? I personally would love to see the Indian Health Service repayment money that was used for bonuses be paid back to the programs and the tribal administrators be held accountable like the ones in the lower 48 and go to jail so we can hire qualified healthcare workers.

    This fraud has life changing impacts. When is committing crimes against our programs be considered crimes against people? This is public health money state or otherwise. Support Tribal ANCSA ANILCA IHS BIA BIE interior Nonprofit Accountability Equality Modernization and Uniform Harmonization of Laws.

  • Why do Natives need so much federal money all the dang time? …. sounds like she put it to better use.

  • Right, outright theft by native employees are just another entitlement and they should not be held accountable for the crime? This Commission and its funds were provided almost entirely by non-native taxpayers from all over the US to do a survey to help the native population. Not a grant to a particular native family. Her greed only reinforces the belief that way to much money is sent to native entities that can’t manage it and it is wasted. If your native corporations were paying for the money she stole from your dividends would you be so quick to dismiss and try to divert her actions by implying that only natives are held accountable? I don’t think an objective review of the court records would support your false allegation.

  • Just give the prosecutors’ third-grade best friends’ second cousins’ neighbor a beachfront house and get this nullified due to not knowing it was illegal

  • Yo G… The PFD is not yours and many politicians suck at logical thought so expecting a good collective result is imprudent. And just how much embezzlement should be acceptable before native people are held accountable? Should there be an affirmative action program to encourage natives to steal up to a certain amount before they’re held accountable? Help us understand your elder wisdom.

  • Take her house, cars, everything of value away, far away from her and her family. Anything to reimburse for her greed.

  • If all these various agencies, commissions, non profits, were regulated and audited as tightly as many for profit businesses, much of this would not happen.

    No standards, no GAAP, nothing. Just an open account waiting to be cleaned out.

  • Not to many storage units located on ATTU or roads.

  • Chill.. just saying Alaska is a national embarrassment because of the federal tax dollars we suck up. Be nice to start cleaning house and paying our own way. We send millions to native corporations year after year. This gal just wasted it before they did.

  • So when she finishes her probation will she be working for the state election division? 🤨

  • Nothing new here, she is just your typical liberal Democrat. They all work for non profits, commissions, foundations, etc. Tons of money goes in and no one knows where it all goes, or do we? This article tells were some of it goes. But again, nothing new here and she is very typical.

  • I think the chances of this $174k being repaid is ZERO!

  • You’re mixing up native corporations with tribes. A common error.

  • You’re confusing tribes and corporations.

  • Can I get some of this sweet funding too if I start and chair the Alaska Non-Native Jackalope Commission? It would hardly less legitimate than this one.

  • This seems to be a fairly frequent problem. There needs to be more checks and balances so they are not able to embezzle the funds so easily or maybe more severe repercussions when they do to deter or discourage others from doing the same.

  • Not my issue. If it’s yours go for it.

  • I’m concerned about usurpations of Constitutional rights like where screaming, bungling Karens turn rights into privileges and charge a fee for them. That’s my interest. I’m not a prosecutor by and large. Nearly everyone is slightly or very incompetent and so I can’t help you there. Good luck with your screaming and yelling.

  • There needs to be training of fund accounting. It is everywhere on the Alaska Peninsula. Everywhere you go you’ll see fund accounting classes for sale. These agencies know there is very little functioning economy in evidence. It’s the Sahara desert as far as that goes in the communities. Few jobs. Of course they are sitting out there in the maritime refuge which is our ancestral land. Thanks for revering the seals. You guys out there, don’t take another plug nickel from these sons of perdition. They are no good. Keep your seal secrets to yourself. That’s all they want to know. How effective are they I’m harming the seals? We all saw they brought the Covid infections with them. Now they want to take the liberty of this young lady. It might take 20 years but this is not a massacre. This is something she can pay off. If they rent from you Aleuts out there, make sure they are paying a scarcity price. Don’t let them set one foot on your property.

  • I’ve read where the judges are making fun in orders of the pitiful economic conditions in those villages and families. The judges think it’s funny that they have to sell tools to put food on the table for their enemies.

  • The economic conditions have been horrendous for many.

  • And by all means remember. It’s not my PFD or yours. It belongs to the first-class citizens just ask them. Hammond was from Bristol Bay. He thought it was our PFD.

  • By all means don’t pay a statutory PFD. It might do some good for Alaskans. We wouldn’t want that.

  • Because debt slavery is the natural trajectory for all Alaskan natives in this hell hole. That’s all the public can imagine. The public of very recently arrived of dollar hoarders. That currency value is fiat currency. Debt slavery is the pit dug for us by outsiders. I hope they fall into the put dug for us. The depraved imaginings of our evil guests would shock us if widely published. It will be published. On a scale of 0 to 10 of depravity deserving of endless debt slavery these infractions may be rather small. What about Fauci gain of function delivery services at an end of the world. That and scatter it scientifically on a graph compared with not poking holes in harbor seal carcasses. Oh how horrible of her to provide food and clothing. Make entrapping, hostile debt slavers stay 100 feet from her.

  • NOAA Fauci is your needed guy. Why are you dealing with this lovely young lady instead huh? Why?

  • My mother was a trapper from age six in 1928 until 1946. She did NOT poke holes in her furs. Her family was against that in concept. Ruins the fur.

  • Socially, what do aware subjects of the monarchy or emerging communism see? I mean mathematically. I’ll wait……….. You see trends. You see loving native mothers being pressured to leave their, huts, hovels and palaces for first class cities to provide possibly free political indoctrination and reliable hot running water which is rather good for family health. You see mayors of first class cities voicing concern about “homelessness” or displaced Alaskans. You have Bryce saying no. You have the otherwise stoic silence of the legeelators saying we don’t have to obey our own bylaws we have taken an oath to obey. We see beer and pong in the private legislative gymnasium off limits in EVERY way to the prying, disapproving eyes of the debt enslaved public. Are you wanting to look away yet? Let’s keep going. We want more of the same because we are blaming republican straw men for our very own prejudgments of the “qualities” and lack there of when compared to our own august selves. We know and can foretell the qualities of our countrymen based upon our complete foreknowledge of their zip code.

  • You want to know the health of fur seals? You go out there and cling to the rocks with them through the maritime storms and figure it out yourself.

  • Like Captain Cook did.

  • Wow, “G Aluetian”, I don’t know if you appreciate, or even recognize, Suzanne’s almost limitless tolerance and graciousness in the face of your 13 consecutive posts.

  • If my comments are superfluous she nudges them off the page. She may see them as helpful overall for a bigger picture. A myopic view is efficient but specialized and limited. It’s tiring to look at all the facets of Alaska’s immutable disparity of options and economic parity. Most people when drawing a map of Alaska freehand are prone to leaving off the Alaskan Peninsula and the Aleutions altogether. Less information is always better for some.

  • This fraud is nothing compared to what Deb Haaland (Sec Interior) will do with her budget.

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