The former Director of the Blackfeet Tribe’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program has plead guilty to embezzlement and fraud after stealing nearly $300,000 from the federally funded program.
Between 2006, when Sandra Marie Sanderville became director, to her dismissal in 2010, Sanderville devised schemes in which she would overpay TANF beneficiaries, who would then cash the illicit checks and give a portion back to Sanderville. She would also provide checks to people who were not eligible for the program and receive portions back from that as well.
She later told investigators that she misled the beneficiaries by telling them that the extra money was from a grant or another fund and that the money they gave to her was going back to TANF.
Sanderville was able to keep her activities under wraps for four years because she was able to “restrict” access to the records. However, when the Blackfeet Tribe’s Internal Affairs Office began an investigation, Sanderville attempted to destroy the documents dealing with the fraud scheme. Investigators were still able to identify the scheme through a back up computer located out-of-state.
According to Federal auditors, Sanderville’s schemes cost the program over $297,612. And while she was dismissed in 2010, she continued to receive pay until she was terminated the following year.
Sanderville plead guilt late last month before United States Magistrate Judge Keith Strong of the Great Falls Division of the District of Montana.
In interviews with investigators, Sanderville admitted to designing and profiting from the scheme, keeping a majority of the money herself. She further explained that she had developed a gambling habit, which cost her hundreds of dollars a week.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Sanderville faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine — in addition to the $297,000 the office will be seeking in restitution.