Prosecutor says plea deals reached for 7 in Twin Butte school fraud case 4-17-07

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Plea agreements have been reached with all seven current and former Twin Buttes school officials accused of conspiring to steal school money, a prosecutor says.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Clare Hochhalter said school finance officer Lillian Holen pleaded guilty Tuesday to a charge of embezzlement and theft from tribal organizations. A presentence investigation was ordered and sentencing was set for July 19, he said.

Former Twin Buttes School Board president Melissa Starr and vice president Darcy Lone Bear pleaded guilty last week to the same charge. Lone Bear is to be sentenced June 18, and Starr is to be sentenced July 16. She was charged with stealing up to $330,000 of the school's money.

A federal grand jury indicted Starr, Lone Bear, Holen and four others last fall on charges they conspired to steal about $665,000 from the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation school district from August 2001 until October 2006.

Gov. John Hoeven suspended Starr, Lone Bear and board member Hank Starr, who are awaiting a hearing on whether to remove them from the school board. The Starrs are brother and sister.

Hochhalter said Hank Star's change of plea hearing is set for Friday.

The others charged with conspiring to embezzle are former board member Tammy Grady-Jacobs, former principal Elaine Incognito and custodian Paul Fredericks.

Hochhalter said the presentence investigations involve confirming the amount of money taken in each case and reviewing thousands of documents.

``It'll probably be a fairly involved presentence process,'' he said.