SD woman who embezzled from regional Lakota church group, business group sent to prison

PIERRE, S.D.- A 61-year-old Pierre woman who had just been caught embezzling from the Fort Pierre Development Corp. and then embezzled from a regional Lakota church organization has been sent to prison.Joni Boub was on probation for taking $38,78...
Robert Wefald of Bismarck, former North Dakota Attorney General and a retired judge, is chair for the "No on 3" committee opposing the Marsy's Law for North Dakota ballot measure. “This is simply bad constitutional law,” Wefald said Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, at a Capitol press conference announcing the “No on 3” committee. (Forum News Service photo by Mike Nowatzki)

PIERRE, S.D.- A 61-year-old Pierre woman who had just been caught embezzling from the Fort Pierre Development Corp. and then embezzled from a regional Lakota church organization has been sent to prison.

Joni Boub was on probation for taking $38,784 from the business organization embezzlement when she then admitted to embezzling $44,166 from the Dakota Association of 13 Indian congregations in South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska, of the United Church of Christ.

In a joint sentencing hearing Thursday, April 26, in Pierre with prosecutors from Hughes and Stanley counties, state Judge Patricia DeVaney ordered Boub to spend about three years in prison.

After tearfully hugging several family members as well as a church leader who spoke at the hearing as a key victim of the crimes, Boub was led out of the courtroom to begin serving her prison time.

DeVaney also ordered Boub to pay restitution of $73,514. That includes $29,348 she still owes on the $38,784 she stole from the development corporation.

Boub was the sole office manager of both organizations.

Originally the amount it was reported she embezzled from the church group, then based in Pierre, was about $60,000.

But Toni Buffalo, program coordinator for the Dakota Association now based in Eagle Butte, S.D., said on Thursday that the church group deducted from the restitution she owed the salary Boub received for office work she performed for the association.

Buffalo gave a victim impact statement at the hearing. She also, in a rarely seen move, hugged Boub tearfully after the sentencing hearing.

The charges say Boub began stealing from the church group in June 2015, shortly after she was sentenced for the Fort Pierre embezzlement; and it continued until July 22, 2016.

In 2015, Boub was sentenced in court in Fort Pierre to 10 years in prison for embezzling from the development corporation; all the prison time was suspended and she was put in six years of supervised probation and ordered to pay back the money.

In March she pleaded guilty to violation probation on the Fort Pierre case and to the newer embezzlement charges in Pierre. At that hearing, Boub said she spent the money on medical bills.

In a victim impact statement Thursday, Buffalo said Boub is an enrolled member of the Rosebud Lakota tribe, as was her mother. Her mother's death in 2016 made Boub's mental health problems get worse, Buffalo said. Although she believes in forgiveness, she told the court that Boub's crimes hurt the churches and she must be held responsible for that.

One of the 13 Lakota congregations in the Dakota Association, at Cannonball, N.D., burned down in 2015 in a prairie fire. Boub's embezzlement was related to the misuse of about $30,000 in donations for that congregation to help rebuild. Boub's crimes also had a lasting impact, making fundraising more difficult, Buffalo said.

With her otherwise fairly clean record, Boub will serve about six months in prison on the two years for the Fort Pierre crime, and about three months on the one-year sentence for the Pierre crime, DeVaney told her. Plus, Boub might qualify for work release, DeVaney said.

Buffalo, of the Dakota Association, and Dave Bonde of the development corporation, say procedures had been changed in their offices so that one person could not have such access to the funds, as Boub did.

The sentence handed down Thursday seemed fair, Buffalo said.

"I'm OK with what the court has done."