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Update:

Former chairwoman of the Montana Native Women’s Coalition, Meredith McConnell has been sentenced for stealing federal grant funds for unapproved travel to Las Vegas, Nevada, and other unauthorized expenses.

McConnell was found guilty at a trial on April 2 by a federal jury on all counts in a superseding indictment, including theft from a program receiving federal funding, wire fraud and false claims.

The Department of Justice reports the court sentenced McConnell to four years of probation and ordered $29,114 restitution jointly and severally with co-defendant Sheryl Lynn Lawrence.

“As chairwoman of the Montana Native Women’s Coalition, McConnell was entrusted with the responsibility of using federal money to help domestic violence victims on Montana’s Indian reservations. McConnell even received training on how not to commit fraud. Yet, she committed fraud anyway and used the money for her own benefit. Those who misuse grant funds will be held accountable and prosecuted. I want to thank Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ryan G. Weldon and Bryan T. Dake and the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General for investigating and prosecuting this case.”

Co-defendants Sheryl Lynn Lawrence, of Colstrip, who was the Coalition’s executive director, and Barbara Mary Daychief, of Browning, who was a Coalition board member, each pleaded guilty to theft of federal funds.

Lawrence was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay $35,127 restitution jointly and severally with McConnell.

Daychief was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to be solely liable for $2,973 restitution.


Previous coverage:

HELENA, Mont. - The former executive director of the Montana Native Women’s Coalition pleaded guilty to theft of federal funds after admitting to stealing federal funds for an unapproved trip to Las Vegas.

The purpose of the Montana Native Women’s Coalition is to help Native American victims of domestic and sexual violence, and it receives funding from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), which provides grants for victim services according to the Department of Justice.

The prosecution said in court documents that Sheryl Lynn Lawrence, 44, received a travel advance in November 2017 while serving as the Coalition’s executive director.

Lawrence claimed $1,826 in travel money for a trip to Las Vegas and claimed she drove when she actually flew, which cost significantly less money than if driving. 

Lawrence also reportedly spent money on a trip to Las Vegas, which was never approved by the OVW, the release noting that it would have never been approved.

Lawrence’s co-defendant, Barbara Mary Daychief of Browning, pleaded guilty to theft of federal funds on Jan. 22, and is pending sentencing. A third co-defendant, Meredith McConnell of Colstrip, has pleaded not guilty to charges.

Sheryl Lynn Lawrence faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

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