Former MCN chief sentenced to federal prison
By Ken Childers
The one-time leader of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation (MCN) will soon be headed to federal prison following his guilty plea to charges of bribery.
Former Principal Chief George Tiger was sentenced to 12 months and one day in a federal penitentiary followed by two years’ supervised release for bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds. The sentence, handed down last Thursday by U.S. District Judge Ronald White, also includes a $10,000 fine. He has until Sept. 14 to report to prison.
After being indicted by a federal grand jury last August, Tiger admitted that he accepted bribes from Aaron Dewayne Terry while Tiger was chairman of the Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town (AQTT) Economic Development Authority Board. Headquartered in Wetumka, the AQTT is a federally recognized Indian tribe that focuses primarily on federal contract procurement in Huntsville, Alabama.
“Mr. Tiger took advantage of the position of trust he had been given by the people of the Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town. Instead of acting in the best interests of those he was appointed to serve Tiger sought out and received unlawful profit for himself. Terry likewise exploited his position as an agent of a tribal government for his own selfish and unlawful gain,” said United States Attorney Brian J. Kuester. “This office and the agencies who have been involved in this investigation are committed to identifying, investigating, and prosecuting those who corrupt the positions of trust and authority they hold.”
Terry held various executive management and control positions within the AQTT-owned business entities. He pled guilty to one count of theft by an agent of an Indian Tribal Government receiving federal funds, one count of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds and one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and two counts of personal tax fraud.
Terry was sentenced last week to 48 months in prison, three years’ supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,250,000 for the theft and embezzlement of funds from business entities wholly owned by the AQTT. He was also sentenced to 36 months in prison, one year supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $105,068.58 for federal tax charges. His sentences are to run concurrently.
“While serving as appointed officials within the Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town, George Tiger and Aaron Terry engaged in various bribery schemes with the sole intention of personal financial gain,” said Melissa Godbold, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Oklahoma City Field Office. “The prosecution of these subjects should serve as a warning that law enforcement will not tolerate officials who abuse their positions of trust.”
The Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, the Small Business Administration, the Army Criminal Investigations Division and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service participated in the investigation that lead to the indictment of Tiger and Terry.
“The sentencing today illustrate the commitment of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, along with our law enforcement partners, to aggressively pursue those who exploit, for their own benefit, Tribal organizations and their business entities that support critical national security programs funded by the Department of Defense,” said Michael Mentavlos, Special Agent-in-Charge of the DCIS Southwest Field Office. “DCIS will continue to investigate corruption and fraud that affects the DoD through the exploitation of Small Business Administration programs designed to help disadvantaged groups.”
Tiger’s attorneys reportedly sought probation rather than a prison term, citing health concerns. “The physical health of this defendant provides legitimate basis to question the need for incarceration to achieve any criminal punishment goals,” attorneys wrote in a motion seeking a variance to sentencing guidelines.
White presided over the sentencing hearings for each of the defendants. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Douglas Horn and Ryan Heatherman and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Courtney Jordan represented the United States at the sentencing hearing. Tiger and Terry will be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for the Eastern District of Oklahoma.
When he was indicted last fall, Tiger was seeking to regain his seat as MCN principal chief. He was elected in 2011 then lost a re-election bid in 2015 to James Floyd, who did not seek another term in 2019. Tiger’s guilty plea invalidated him to hold the office, but it came too late for the MCN Election Board to remove his name from the September 2019 primary election ballot and out of 10 candidates, he finished in eighth place. David Hill won against Bim Steven Bruner in a December runoff.