Former Tribal Official Pleads Guilty to Bribery Scheme

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FILE PHOTO: American flag waves outside the U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington

WASHINGTON – A former Tribal government official of the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation (MHA Nation) pleaded guilty today to a bribery scheme in which he admitted to soliciting and accepting bribes and kickbacks from a contractor providing construction services on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, which is the home of the MHA Nation.

According to court documents, Randall Jude Phelan, 58, of Mandaree, North Dakota, was an elected representative on the Tribal Business Council, the governing body of the MHA Nation, from around November 2012 through the middle of 2020. Beginning around 2013 and continuing through 2020, Phelan solicited and accepted bribes and kickbacks from a contractor operating on the Fort Berthold Reservation. In exchange for the payments, Phelan used his official position to help the contractor’s business, including by awarding contracts, fabricating bids during purportedly competitive bidding processes, advocating for the contractor with other Tribal officials, and facilitating the submission and payment of fraudulent invoices.

Phelan pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, honest services wire fraud, and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds. He is scheduled to be sentenced on February 22, 2023, and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the top count. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl for the District of North Dakota; and Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division made the announcement.

The FBI Minneapolis Field Office investigated the case.

Trial Attorneys Andrew Tyler and John J. Liolos of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Greenley for the District of North Dakota are prosecuting the case.

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