Former tribal chief pleads guilty to embezzlement

Saturday, December 3rd 2005, 6:31 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The former head of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma has pleaded guilty to using tribal gaming revenue to finance a pleasure trip to Tunica, Mississippi.

James Wayne Pedro Senior admitted on Friday to embezzling nearly $200,000 dollars while he was a member of the eight-person business committee that governs the tribes.

The committee operates various tribal programs with revenue from the tribes' casinos, but authorities have said members commonly misuse those funds.

Pedro, 66, was a member of the committee from January 1996 until April 2004, when he was voted out.

Pedro's wife, Lea E. Schantz, and former secretary, Peggy BigPond, also pleaded guilty Friday to embezzlement charges, implicating him as they admitted to their own crimes.

According to records, BigPond, 51, indicated that Pedro directed her to cash a $2,500 check from the tribes' Lucky Star casino in March 2003 to finance a trip to Las Vegas. He assured her other members of the business committee were doing worse things, she wrote.

The charges against them were filed last month after federal authorities investigated a March 2004 tip from the National Indian Gaming Commission. That probe is ongoing.

Pedro also pleaded guilty Friday to lying on his wife's application for rent subsidies from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Schantz, 40, confessed to the same charge, officials said.

All three will be sentenced in a few months, and were released on their own recognizance Friday afternoon.