Former director of Ponca tribe’s domestic violence unit admits misappropriation of funds

The former director of the Ponca Tribe, Nebraska’s domestic violence unit, has been federally charged with embezzling victims’ money.

At a hearing this month in U.S. District Court in Lincoln, Andrea Rodriguez pleaded guilty to embezzlement and theft from an Indian tribal group.

In a written plea agreement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tessie Smith said Rodriguez held the position from July 2019 through the end of October 2020 and was responsible for grants the tribe received under the Crime Victims Act.

“These funds are intended to support members of the Ponca Tribe dealing with domestic violence-related issues,” Smith said.

Instead, Rodriguez created false claims for reimbursement of medical bills, grocery bills and household items that he claimed were victims. She ended up using the money to pay her own personal bills.

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As a result of the program, Rodriguez has received a total of $19,431 in tribal funds, which she has agreed to repay, Smith said.

At sentencing in December, Rodriguez faces up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

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