Former Employee Sentenced For Embezzling From Abenaki Group

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The former director of a federal grant program for the Abenaki Self Help Association Inc. has been sentenced to eight months in prison for embezzling tens of thousands of dollars in federal funds from the tribal group, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Louise Larivee, 63, of Swanton, also was ordered on Friday to pay $96,700 in restitution, the U.S. attorney's office said. She had pleaded guilty to a charge of federal program embezzlement on the third day of her jury trial in November, federal prosecutors said.

Her co-conspirator, Candy Thomas, also pleaded guilty to federal program embezzlement. She was sentenced in December to probation and ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution.

Between 2013 and 2017, Larivee was employed by the Abenaki Self Help Association as director of a federal grant program, while Thomas worked as an office employee and bookkeeper, prosecutors said. The association, which functioned as a service arm of the tribe, promoting economic and social development, received tens of thousands of dollars in grant funding from the U.S. Labor Department each year, the U.S. attorney's office said.

Thomas issued checks and gave cash to Larivee at Larivee's request in amounts that exceeded her compensation, prosecutors said. Larivee also received travel reimbursement checks based on inflated mileage claims and Thomas sent tax forms to the IRS that concealed the amount of funds that went to Larivee, prosecutors said.