ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Former tribal official pleads guilty as bribery trial was set to start in Fargo

Randall Phelan took part in a bribery scheme with co-conspirators from about 2013 through mid-2020, during which time he used his position with the Three Affiliated Tribes Tribal Business Council to obtain construction contracts for a contractor, according to court documents.

saved as picture.jpeg
Randall Phelan is seen at a White House infrastructure meeting in 2017.
Photo via Gov. Doug Burgum's Twitter account
We are part of The Trust Project.

FARGO — Just as his federal trial was set to begin on Tuesday, Oct. 25, a former tribal government official of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation entered guilty pleas in a bribery case prosecutors say involved hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Randall Jude Phelan, a former member of the Three Affiliated Tribes Tribal Business Council, was charged by complaint in July 2020 with two counts related to conspiracy and bribery concerning a program receiving federal funds.

A grand jury later handed down a four-count indictment that included one count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, one count of wire fraud and two counts of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds.

On Tuesday morning, just as his trial was to start, Phelan pleaded guilty to three of the charges he was facing, including count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, one count of wire fraud and one count of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds.

Phelan, 58, of Mandaree, North Dakota, is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 22, 2023.

ADVERTISEMENT

According to a brief filed in U.S. District Court by prosecutors, Phelan took part in a bribery scheme with co-conspirators from about 2013 through mid-2020, during which time he used his position with the tribal business council to obtain construction contracts for Francisco Solis, who operated various construction companies and provided construction services on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.

Solis paid bribes and kickbacks to Phelan, the prosecutors' brief stated.

Delvin Reeves, an alleged co-conspirator described in court documents as Phelan's "right-hand man," pleaded guilty in November 2021 to one count of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds and is awaiting sentencing.

Phelan began soliciting payments shortly after his election to the tribal business council in 2012 and, unlike Reeves, who took payments in checks, Phelan only took payments in cash, the brief stated.

Solis or his companies paid Reeves a total of about $645,000 in checks and Solis has estimated he paid Phelan at least that amount in cash, the brief stated.

Solis pleaded guilty in 2019 to one count of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds and is awaiting sentencing.

Prosecutors had planned to introduce at trial audio-visual recordings of interactions between Phelan, Reeves and Solis, a number of which capture Phelan's requests for hand-offs of cash as well as statements about the potential for their phones to be tapped and not wanting anyone looking into their business, according to the brief.

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
What To Read Next
Seven other machines are to be installed in Benson, Burke, McHenry, Sargent, Sioux, Slope and Traill counties, all identified as short on library resources.
Several bills relating to transgender youth and adults were heard Tuesday, Jan. 24, before the House Human Services Committee.
Brig. Gen. Rebecca B. McElwain was promoted to that rank during a ceremony at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina on Jan. 9.
While the United States government gave help to businesses and people, a lack of assistance has left some Chinese citizens angry and destitute.