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Former Montana Native Women’s Coalition Chair Convicted Of Wire Fraud, Theft

A federal jury convicted the former chairwoman of a Billings nonprofit of false claims, wire fraud and theft from a program receiving federal funding Friday.

Meredith McConnell is the most recent former staff member and leader within the Montana Native Women’s Coalition to be convicted of misusing federal grant funds to benefit herself and others. The coalition’s former Executive Director Sheryl Lawrence and ex-board member Barbara Daychief pleaded guilty to stealing funding from the coalition earlier this year.

The Montana Native Women’s Coalition seeks to support Native American victims of sexual and domestic abuse.

The Montana U.S. Attorney’s Office argued that over a four month period in 2017, McConnell was responsible for the mishandling of more than 10% of the nonprofit’s grant funds.

McConnell pleaded not guilty to all charges, claiming her signature was forged on a number of incriminating documents.

Following the federal jury’s conviction, McConnell faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. She has not yet been sentenced.

Another former executive director of the Montana Native Women’s Coalition, Toni Plummer-Alvernaz, pleaded guilty to stealing funds in 2017 and was sentenced to one year in prison.

Kaitlyn Nicholas is Yellowstone Public Radio’s Report for America Indigenous affairs reporter.

Kaitlyn Nicholas covers tribal news in Montana.