Former First Nations chief in northern Saskatchewan convicted of fraud, theft

PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. — A former Saskatchewan Indigenous leader has been found guilty of pocketing nearly $280,000 of band money.

Napolean Mercredi, who was chief of the Fond Du Lac First Nation from 2009 to 2011, had been charged with fraud, theft over $5,000 and breach of trust.

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He was convicted Friday by Court of Queen's Bench Justice Gary Meschisnick in Prince Albert, Sask.

"I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of the crime of fraud," Meschisnick said as he read his decision.

Prosecutor Darren Howarth said he was pleased with the result.

"The message that I hope gets out there is that, if you are a public official and you are using public funds or band funds, that you use the money responsibly and that you be accountable for it," he said.

During the trial last October, court heard that almost $776,000 was misappropriated during Mercredi's term.

Friday's decision reflects money Mercredi personally used to make payments to his credit card and to purchase a new truck.

Meschisnick reserved his decision on whether the remaining money allegedly paid out to band members for social assistance constituted a breach of trust.

Defence lawyer Garth Bendig said the evidence presented during the trial did not support that allegation.

"People came to him directly for assistance and he would provide funds to them for that purpose," he said.

Sentencing arguments are to be heard May 22 and a pre-sentence report has been ordered that is to include a discussion on Mercredi's ability to pay back any money.

Mercredi, who is currently unemployed, said he wouldn't object to a restitution order.

"Restitution would make sense," he said. "It would make sense for me."

Howarth said it's possible he could recommend Mercredi get jail time. (paNOW)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 21, 2020

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