Former Passamaquoddy chief faces 30-count indictment

Bangor, Maine (AP) 3-08

A former Passamaquoddy tribal governor faces a 30-count federal indictment in connection with the alleged misapplication of about $1.7 million in federal funds earmarked for tribal programs.

The indictment, charges Robert Newell, 64, of Princeton with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, misapplying funds and making false statements. Newell served as governor of the Indian Township reservation from September 2002 to September 2006.

Also charged as a co-conspirator in 21 counts was James Parisi Jr., 45, of Portland. Parisi was finance director at Indian Township from 2003 to 2006, according to the indictment.

Each of the counts carries a maximum penalty of either five or 10 years in prison. The maximum fine is $250,000 per count.

During each of the three years in question, the tribe received more than $7 million in funds from the federal government through contracts, cooperative agreements and grants.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Chapman said some of the funds were diverted for personal gain.

Newell said he was advised by his attorney not to comment on the allegations. The lawyer, Matthew Erickson of Brewer, refused to discuss the indictment. Parisi could not be reached for comment.

A variety of federal agencies were involved in the investigation including the Department of Interior, Department of Justice, Department of Health & Human Services and Department of Housing & Urban Development.

The probe began in early 2005 when Newell was still serving as tribal governor based on complaints that were referred to the investigative agencies, Chapman said. No date was set for the defendants’ initial court appearance.