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Former chief tribal judge sentenced in truck driver ticketing scheme

Scam collected $24,000 from truck drivers over three years

Roni Rae Brady, 52, of Lame Deer, Montana, was sentenced to six months in prison for her role in a ticketing scheme that targeted commercial truck drivers. Photo: Shutterstock

The former chief judge for the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council in Montana was sentenced to six months in prison on Thursday and ordered to pay back nearly $11,000 for her role in an illegal ticketing scheme that targeted commercial truck drivers caught speeding on the reservation.

Roni Rae Brady, 52, of Lame Deer, Montana, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in U.S. District Court in Billings in December.

Prosecutors claim that over a three-year period, from 2014 to 2017, Brady helped establish an enforcement initiative to curb commercial truck drivers’ speeding on U.S. Highway 212, which runs through the reservation.

According to court documents, truck drivers were given an option of paying the standard $125 ticket or making a $250 donation to a special court clerk’s fund that prosecutors claim Brady established and controlled. 

If truck drivers opted to make a donation — a deal that wasn’t offered to other speeders — tribal court officials told the truckers their tickets would be dismissed so it would not affect their driving records, according to court filings. 

Prosecutors claim the Northern Cheyenne Tribe never reported any speeding ticket convictions.

Over the three-year period, the tribal court collected more than $24,000 from truck drivers that was deposited into the donation fund, which wasn’t disclosed to the tribe’s finance office as required by tribal law, according to court documents.

Federal prosecutors also argued that the fines collected weren’t legal because tribal law enforcement doesn’t have jurisdiction over anyone who is not a Native American tribal member in criminal matters on the reservation.

Court documents allege Brady received a blank $250 Arvest Bank money order from a commercial truck driver from Missouri, which she made out to herself and cashed in Montana.

As chief judge, Brady used the money collected from the commercial truck driver speeding operation “to benefit her, court employees loyal to her and their families,” prosecutors claim. 

Brady must serve three years of supervised release once she finishes her prison sentence.

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Click for more articles by FreightWaves’ Clarissa Hawes.

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  1. Avalee Little Whirlwind

    Dear Clarissa,
    I have read this article and is of a concern to me as I too am a Northern Cheyenne Tribal member in which this has happened where I live. I do not know whether to congratulate Roni Rae Brady or wave her off as a disappointment. Due to the law inforcement that has no jurisdiction over the truck driver’s that come through the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Its as though the truck driver’s seem to know that and so they believe they can drive through in any way they want to and get away with it.. I say this out of grief from my own traumatic experiences over 20 years of my life , from having to share highway 212 with these rogue truckers who are running through an open range highway at speeds of 80mph to 100mph. And as to how many come through I have heard of people counting up to 500 or more in a days time. Let me ask you to look up the the past incidents/accidents crashes etc.. on U.S. Highway 212 in Montana & tell me the data on the causes of death & injury, and how much of those has involved Semi’s?
    And why isn’t there a weigh station? And why doesn’t the State of Montana maintenance or overhual the road or have their MHP’s on a surveillance route to monitor the highway?
    So I think I’ll congratulate Roni Rae. Because now that it has some media attention, to convict her and say 95 plus truck driver’s were pulled over due to speeding, than that’s some proof to how many of them disobey the laws while traveling through open range highway 212 with a set speed limit of 65mph.

    1. John Jrvosh two dogs

      My Opinion? Number one, there should not be a state or federal highway running through a reservation, period. Number two, it is reservation land! The tribal police should be allowed to ticket (hefty fines), and or confiscate,.!!! This is their land! If the feds or anyone else doesn’t like it then don’t drive through! NO ONE has the right to that land except the people that were shoved onto it against their will!

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Clarissa Hawes

Clarissa has covered all aspects of the trucking industry for 14 years. She is an award-winning journalist known for her investigative and business reporting. Before joining FreightWaves, she wrote for Land Line Magazine and If you have a news tip or story idea, send her an email to [email protected].