Published On: Tue, Jul 26th, 2016

Leatherwood pleads guilty to embezzling from Sequoyah Fund





The former executive director of the Sequoyah Fund has pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $1 million from the organization.  Nell Leatherwood pleaded straight up (guilty to all charges) to all 50 counts in a Bill of Indictment on charges ranging from embezzlement to theft.

According to the Department of Justice, a date of sentencing has not been set.  Court records filed previously in the case state that the U.S. Attorney’s Office is seeking a money judgment in the case of approximately $965,000.

Nell Leatherwood (Photo courtesy of Sequoyah Fund)

Nell Leatherwood (Photo courtesy of Sequoyah Fund)

The Bill of Indictment filed in late 2015 states that between January 2010 and Nov. 20, 2013, “Leatherwood embezzled approximately $900,000 through the use of the corporate SFI (Sequoyah Fund, Inc.) credit card for personal purchases and expenses.”

She pleaded guilty to the following counts:

  • Count One – Embezzlement from an Indian Tribal Organization
  • Count Two – Theft Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds
  • Count Three – Access Device Fraud
  • Counts Four through Fifty – Making, Uttering, and Possessing Forged Securities

Court records state that Leatherwood, who served as Sequoyah Fund executive director from 2006 until her resignation in November 2013, received a corporate credit card from First Citizens Bank .  “Leatherwood misused the corporate SFI credit card to pay for personal expenses,” state those records.  “These credit card bills were later paid using SFI funds without the SFI board’s knowledge of the nature of the expenditures.”

The court records also state that she wrote 47 checks to herself totaling $65,000.  Of those, the records state that Leatherwood “forged the required signatures of the board members as payers, and then cashed or deposited them for her own personal use.”

Russ Seagle, current Sequoyah Fund executive director, stated, “We are pleased with the thorough investigation by the FBI and the work done by the federal prosecutors.  The guilty plea on fifty felony counts certainly brings us some measure of closure.  Now, we wait for the sentencing phase.”

A message left for Leatherwood’s attorney seeking comment was not returned by press time.