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Former village president charged with theft in Southcentral native village

More than 200,000 diverted from Native Village of Tatitlek

Posted: March 28, 2013 - 11:07pm

ANCHORAGE — The former president of a south-central Alaska Native village has been indicted on theft charges.

Lori Clum, 45, was arrested Wednesday and charged with misappropriating more than $200,000 from the Native Village of Tatitlek, including $20,000 that she gave to her brother, federal prosecutors said.

The arrest was hailed by current village President David Totemoff, who said the Alutiiq subsistence village has been damaged by Clum’s activities.

“It was unreal. It’s beautiful,” he said by phone.

Tatitlek is a community of 83 people on Prince William Sound about 25 miles southwest of Valdez.

Clum was known as Lori “Sue” Johnson before she was married. She could not be reached immediately for comment.

An Anchorage phone number listed for Clum’s husband has been disconnected. Her attorney, Lance Wells, was away from his office.

The indictment charged Clum with three counts of theft from an Indian tribal organization. Clum’s brother, James Kramer, 47, of Valdez was named in one count of the same charge. Directory assistance lists no number for James Kramer in Valdez.

U.S. prosecutor Karen Loeffler said village residents voted Clum out of office in April 2008, but she refused to acknowledge the election and kept control of village bank accounts for a year.

Over that time, Loeffler said, Clum paid herself duplicate paychecks, made cash withdrawals and wrote checks to herself. In one instance, she withdrew $28,750 and deposited it into her personal bank account, prosecutors said.

She also withdrew $20,000 in cash and gave it to her brother for his personal expenses, according to the indictment.

Federal agencies including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Health and Human Services provide the village with most of its funding.

Clum also faces state charges, including bootlegging in the community where the importation and sale of alcohol is banned.

Court records indicate Clum is free on $5,000 bail on felony charges of selling alcohol without a license between mid-September and mid-December. She also is charged with counts of being a felon in possession of a weapon.

Totemoff said the village sued Clum and her husband to recover misappropriated funds of more than $200,000.

The Clums in a settlement did not acknowledge wrongdoing but agreed to pay back $150,000, said Tatitlek attorney David Shoup.

Totemoff said the village has collected a little more than $4,000. He blamed Clum’s activities for people leaving the village.

The missing money, he said, was needed to keep people employed. A Valdez fuel company refused to deliver fuel until the village paid a debt of about $40,000. The Internal Revenue Service sought another $40,000.

The damage would have been worse but federal money was funneled through Chugachmiut, a tribal consortium of seven Native communities, and authorities stopped additional Tatitlek money from flowing into accounts accessed by Clum, Totemoff said.

“We were devastated as far as the bank accounts,” he said. “Yes we were. But there was enough money to continue our community.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Aunnie Steward said the maximum sentence for each theft count is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but a sentence would depend on the seriousness of the offenses and a convicted person’s record.

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