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.