Savannah Sandoval, 36, of Camp Verde, was sentenced last week by United States District Judge Steven P. Logan to 24 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Sandoval also was ordered to pay over $650,000 in restitution. Sandoval pleaded guilty on August 9, 2023, to Embezzlement and Theft from an Indian Tribal Organization.
Between August 2017 and May 2022, Sandoval, the former Comptroller and Executive Director of the Yavapai-Apache Nation Housing Department, embezzled $670,908 from the Yavapai-Apache Nation, including over $133,000 of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Indian Housing Block Grant Funds.
As Comptroller and Executive Director, Sandoval was the supervisor of the accounting department and oversaw day-to-day activities and financial transactions. As such, she had access to Housing Department credit cards and knowledge of its vendor accounts. In 2022, it was discovered that there had been hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent purchases via Tribal credit cards. On at least 184 occasions funds were fraudulently transferred by Sandoval into her personal accounts.
“Indian Tribal Organizations have historically been vulnerable to theft and embezzlement,” said United States Attorney Gary Restaino. “The theft here meant that roofs and floors and appliances in houses on the Nation could not be repaired or replaced. The Court’s sentence sends a strong deterrent message to those who steal from Native American communities.”
“HUD OIG is committed to protecting the integrity of funds meant to assist with housing on Native lands,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark Kaminsky with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and hold accountable those who would misuse federal tax dollars for personal gain.”
“Financial crimes have long been at the forefront of the FBI’s efforts, and we will continue to meticulously investigate any and all fraudsters in pursuit of our mission of protecting the American people,” said Akil Davis, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Phoenix field office.