Three Atmore women recently entered guilty pleas in two separate federal court cases to charges they collectively embezzled more than $750,000 from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
According to a press release issued by Steve Butler, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, 54-year-old Carolyn Dortch was sentenced on August 4 to serve five years on probation for using her former position to steal tribal money.
Court documents show that Dortch was employed as Poarch’s senior services director from around 2010 until October 2016. She was in charge of the tribe’s Seniors Active in Learning (SAIL) Center, which provided numerous activities for seniors such as meals on wheels, games, crafts and outings.
The Atmore woman was responsible for purchasing food and supplies and for handling tribal money on senior trips. In October 2016, tribal accountants discovered that Dortch had been apparently “misusing her position of employment and submitting falsified receipts representing fictitious purchases.”
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents took over the probe and discovered that over a six-year period Dortch had embezzled more than a half-million dollars from the tribe and used the money for personal gain.
She was ordered to serve the first six months of her sentence on home confinement with electronic monitoring, and a credit restriction was imposed upon her.
She was also ordered to make restitution totaling $502,173.35 to the tribe and to pay a $100 special assessment.
‘Free Play’ scheme
The other embezzlement case involved Jasmine Hansell, 26, and her mother, Gunilla Marshall, 50, who entered guilty pleas to one count of conspiring to steal funds from the Poarch-owned Wind Creek Casino in Atmore.
According to court documents, Hansell previously worked as a game attendant for the local gambling house and had access to the casino’s internal computer system, which managed and tracked player accounts.
A compliance audit revealed that Hansell, without the tribe’s authorization, accessed over $250,000 in “free play” credits belonging to the tribe and transferred those credits to her mother’s player account. Video surveillance and computer reports indicate that Hansell and Marshall used and benefited from the free play credits at the casino.
In March 2017, after an FBI investigation, the defendants were charged with one count of conspiring to embezzle and steal from an Indian tribal organization.
The mother and daughter were scheduled for sentencing on July 12, but to date no sentence has been announced by the U.S. Attorney’s office.
They face up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, three years of supervised release, a $100 mandatory special assessment and full restitution of the quarter-million dollars they admitted stealing.
A spokeswoman for Poarch Band of Creek Indians said Monday that the tribe “wishes not to comment” on the thefts.