‘Who’s Got the Money?’

“A gathering at Ministikwan Lake Cree ‘Nation’ {a ‘nation’ of 1,354 people} …sought to bring attention to allegations of fraud, theft and negligence directed at the community’s chief, Leslie Crookedneck, and the Band’s manager, Strider Lacosse. 

Frustrated citizens post a list of demands for Ministikwan Lake Cree ‘Nation’ chief and council. (Nicole Reis – meadowlakeNOW Staff)

“Dozens of members and Elders set up a drum and tipi in front of their Band office…with a list of demands displayed, including the dismantling of quorum power; for ‘Ammunition and Twine’ funding to be issued to membership over the age of 18, and not Lacosse’s alleged business affiliates; removal of Lacosse’s employee affiliates; accountability for missing funds; and a general Band meeting. “Councillor Wanda Lewis told ‘meadowlakeNOW’ she and two other councillors have been excluded from council meetings regarding the financial health of the community. Excluded councillors were first alerted to alleged mismanaged funds when a cheque for $500,000 out of their $1.2 million in ‘Ammunition and Twine’ funding was issued to ‘Tripoint Financial Management’, a newly-formed company to which Lacosse is named as Chief Operating Officer.

When we confront him, he gives us the tone that we have no business in our own business”,
she said.
We can’t be asking any questions.”

“Frustrated Band members say chief Crookedneck has issued full cheque-signing authority to an unelected member, Strider Lacosse, and his business partner Dan Osvat. Lewis explained chief Crookedneck and three councillors have quorum voting power and purposely exclude her and councilor Leon Crookedneck from those meetings. She claims when she attempts to hold a general meeting, she has been threatened by remaining council for having illegal meetings, or for having gatherings under ‘COVID-19’ restrictions. She also claims no minutes are taken at meetings and none have happened to date.

It’s very frustrating. It takes away our own community’s rights. We can’t speak for our people who have concerns but our employees are afraid to support us because they will get fired”,
Lewis said.
As long as Strider is here, our Band employees will get fired.

“A member of the Band who wished to remain anonymous for safety reasons {!} said over $1.2 million in ‘Ammunition and Twine’ funding has been in development for 17 years and nearly 900 members over the age of 18 were expecting those funds this year.

“To prove their claims, the anonymous complainant presented stacks of scanned cheque images allegedly made out from the Band’s general account to either ‘Tripoint Financial Management’, the Chief, or Osvat, all of which contained transfers of thousands of dollars.

“Lewis also claimed the community was expecting to receive pandemic assistance dollars from April to June where only one cheque was issued.

“A former educator in the community says she was issued an advance from the Band ahead of employment cheques she was expecting. She was expecting to see a deduction from her paycheque to pay back the advance on two separate occasions. She says she was given four thousand dollars in “free money” which she was expecting to pay back.

“A community Elder who also wished to remain anonymous is asking for a general Band meeting and a forensic audit.

16 years of that is too long. We haven’t heard from our chief nor has he responded to any emails”,
she said.
Although he’s driven by where we are sitting, they’ve driven by several times and have not made an effort to stop by and see what we’re doing. He’s turned a blind eye on everybody.”

“Leslie Crookedneck and Strider Lacrosse were contacted for comment but did not immediately return calls. Meadow Lake Tribal Council also did not immediately respond. ‘Indigenous’ {sic, ‘Aboriginal’} and Northern Affairs Canada (‘I’NAC) has also been contacted and we await comment.

“‘MeadowlakeNOW’ will follow this story as new details emerge.”

–‘Allegations of financial mismanagement at Ministikwan Lake Cree Nation’,
Nicole Reis, Meadowlake Now, Sept.14, 2020

Concerned citizens of Ministikwan Lake begin protesting against Tripoint on the morning of September 8, 2020 (Buffalo Chronicle)

“For several months, the ‘Buffalo Tribune’ has been in contact with concerned community members of the Ministikwan Lake Cree ‘Nation’ of northwestern Saskatchewan. Much of this unease has been directed towards Band manager Strider Lacosse, particularly with respect to allegations of financial mismanagement on a massive scale.

He [Lacosse] came on to help us out with finances; to get us out of a deficit, but it feels like we’ve gone in the other direction”,
stated one anxious resident (who has sought to remain anonymous out of concern for their safety, and will hereafter be referred to as ‘Person A’). ‘Person A’ claimed to us that Mr. Lacosse and his business partner Dan Osvat (who ‘A’ alleges has been charged with fraud in the past), through their company Tripoint Financial Management, have been “taking money from the government by making cheques out to their own names or to their company”. To prove his point, ‘Person A’ presented us with dozens of scanned images of cheques apparently made out from the Band’s general account to either Tripoint, the Chief, and Osvat himself, all of which contained transfers in the thousands of dollars.

This is the people’s money that’s being stolen—and the worst part is, he’s [Strider] getting away with it, because he’s subverting the democratic process through his close friends on the chief’s council, who I imagine are in on the whole scheme.”

“‘Person A’ then described in worrying detail a local government with deep internal divisions.

‘Tripoint’ meets with three of the six councilors and the Chief frequently. On one occasion, two of the dissenting councilors attempted to confront Strider about their personal concerns about him, who responded by stating that he only works for the ‘quorum’, and that he doesn’t have to answer to them. The situation became even murkier when ‘Person A’ maintained that general Band meetings had stopped occurring altogether in Ministikwan Lake.

Only the three dissenting councilors that aren’t in on the scheme with Lacosse, the Chief, and the others have attempted to keep the democratic process rolling. These three councilors have been attempting to hold unofficial meetings with angered community members to bring back some sort of normalcy, but the Chief, who I like to think of as Lacosse’s crony, and his three ‘stooges’ on the council have been splitting the community by telling people not to show up. They’ve used COVID-19 as an excuse, threatening people who do show up to these meetings to express their concerns with thousand-dollar fines. People are afraid to show up, because if it comes out that they’re upset with Mr. Lacosse’s leadership, they can get fired from their jobs—unduly, of course. Even one of the councilors seeking to host these unofficial meetings had his wife fired for this.”

“Accompanying ‘Person A’ in the meeting with the ‘Buffalo Tribune’ was another concerned citizen, ‘Person B’, who expanded further upon the dismal emotional well-being of their fellow Band members.

We’ve experienced first-hand a feeling of defeat due to [Lacosse’s] absence of remorse with respect to firing our own people“,
they stated.
There’s no form of feeling safe and being guaranteed in our job positions, because Strider has fired so many within our Band membership and opened them up for outsiders. We are now being effectively governed by Strider Lacosse, an unelected figure, in all areas, including our finances. People from our ‘Nation’ are not only angry, but feel hopeless because the Chief and his quorum refuse to sympathize with their own people. Every office in our community is being run by Strider and his select choice of outsiders. The aforementioned Mr. Osvat, on the other hand, has wrangled control of decision-making for all big projects. Due to his connection with Strider, the Band effectively only hires his business partners like Osvat to do all the construction, renovations, and plumbing required for our ‘Nation’. Of course, Strider always personally profits from this. Overall, it’s been a trying time since Strider was hired as Band manager and a lot of division and hate have been sown.”

“‘Person B’ echoed ‘Person A’s concerns about the division in leadership. 

Some dissenting councilors refuse to work with Strider out of principle due to the corruption that he’s brought into Ministikwan Lake and because he’s openly stealing from our people. He has been told numerous times to leave, but refuses because he’s backed up by the quorum and calls himself essential.

Picket signs in Ministikwan Lake (Buffalo Chronicle)

“Shortly after, the ‘Buffalo Tribune’ was contacted by one of the three councilors opposing Mr. Lacosse’s position in the community (to be referred hence as ‘Person C’). The anonymous councilor confirmed their fellow Band members’ statements about how the Band council was being run by quorum and was not respecting majority council vote, and how the Chief and Lacosse had threatened the community with fines for unofficial Band meetings. However, ‘Person C’ delved deeper into the fraudulent on-goings he had witnessed during his position as councilor in Ministikwan.

It’s worse than you’d think. On April 1st, one of the councilors working close with Strider released a memo on Facebook reporting that the 1.2 million dollars of government settlement funds our community was supposed to receive as part of the ‘Ammunition & Twine’ agreement would not be released for another 6 months.”

I’m on the council. This was nothing but a bold-faced lie. I can tell you, the money had actually come through that same month. The vast majority of the community has agreed time and time again to disseminate these monies to all Band members over 18. The chief and some of my fellow councilors, however, evidently had other plans.”

“‘Person C’ alleged that Ministikwan Lake’s lawyer, Bruce Sluser, who had been in charge of handling the settlement case, was directed to invest $500,000 from the government discharge into a construction company soon after the alleged ‘delay’ announced on the 1st, even though this went against the wishes of the community.

“After refusing to do so, Person C stated that Sluser, after having worked on the settlement case for decades, was unjustly fired.

He [Sluser] was then ordered to immediately deposit the $1.2 million into a suspicious account that he didn’t recognize. He was let go after he also refused to do this“,
‘Person C’ continued.

It’s worth mentioning that whoever penned the letter of termination and the letter instructing him to deposit the money into that account had, at least in my opinion, forged the signature of the Chief, although I can’t prove this.”

“We concluded by asking ‘Person C’ why no government agency had stepped in as of yet to resolve this shocking allegation of corruption, and what the stolen money might be used for.

Oh, INAC probably knows all about what’s going on here. They just don’t want to step in to have to deal with this mess, because it runs deep. About the theft of community funds, I believe Mr. Lacosse, who has been bankrupt in the past, is using our money to get out of debt. It’s an egregious break of faith to have your local government work against its own citizens.”

“The ‘Buffalo Tribune’ contacted Chief Leslie Crookedneck for comment on the serious allegations put forward by members of his community against the ‘Nation’s Band manager and his own leadership. We received no response. Shortly after, protests broke out on Wednesday against Lacosse in Ministikwan Lake, blocking off the local school, Band office and health clinic before turning ugly, with certain controversial councilors considered to be ‘pro-Strider’ clashing with protesters. The ‘Buffalo Tribune’ will follow this story closely as new details emerge.”

–‘Allegations of corruption surface in northwestern Saskatchewan’s Ministikwan Lake’,
Giordano Baratta, Buffalo Tribune, Sept.10 2020
See also:
The Way Business Was Done’ (Fraud/Fond du Lac, Sask.) {Sept.19, 2020}:
   “It was the way business was done.”
“A former Northern Saskatchewan ‘First Nations’ {‘Aboriginal’} Chief will serve time behind bars for committing fraud…”

Chiefs in the News: Napoleon Mercredi’ (Fraud/Saskatchewan) {Oct.9, 2019}:
“Napoleon Mercredi was Chief at Fond Du Lac Denesuline ‘First Nation’ {Fond du Lac Dene ‘Nation’, a ‘nation’ of 2,109 people} from 2009 to 2011. Over $400,000 was allegedly misappropriated during Mercredi’s time as chief…”

Reserve Residents Suffer Under Segregation{Aug.22, 2019}:
“What are your Chief and Council doing to combat drugs, alcohol and gangs on your ‘First Nations’ territory?”
Post also at: 



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