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3 face bribery charges in Ho-Chunk contracts

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Three Black River Falls residents were charged Wednesday in a 14-count indictment with bribery in connection with contracts awarded by the Ho-Chunk Nation.

A federal grand jury indicted Timothy Whiteagle, Deborah Atherton and Clarence Pettibone. Both Whiteagle, 59, and Pettibone, 52, are tribal members of Ho-Chunk Nation, which operates casinos in Wisconsin, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Whiteagle also is charged with tax evasion and filing false tax returns, while Pettibone is charged with making a false statement to FBI agents.

The indictment alleges from 2002 to 2009, Whiteagle — at times with help from Atherton — acted covertly as a behind-the-scenes consultant for clients seeking to do business with Ho-Chunk Nation. Those clients included companies that provided cash-access services, such as check cashing and ATMs, at Ho-Chunk casinos, and a company that sought to provide mortgages and housing for tribal members. Whiteagle allegedly received over $3 million from those clients.

Pettibone has served as an elected legislator of the nation and has had other Ho-Chunk roles, such as vice president. Prosecutors allege Whiteagle gave Pettibone money and valuables, and Whiteagle and Atherton, 54, solicited clients wanting Ho-Chunk business to do the same.

Those valuables included checks and money orders, payments to a martial arts studio operated by Pettibone, a Pontiac Firebird, contributions to Pettibone’s re-election campaign, a job for a relative of Pettibone, golf outings, tickets to an NFL football game, visits to adult entertainment venues, and vacations for Pettibone and his family members, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

The indictment alleges Whiteagle and Atherton offered and gave the money and valuables to Pettibone to influence and reward him for helping certain clients do business with Ho-Chunk Nation, and that Pettibone, as an elected legislator, took steps to help the clients do business with Ho-Chunk Nation.

It’s unclear if the three have attorneys. Home phone listings for Whiteagle and Atherton could not be found.

Messages were left Wednesday evening at Pettibone’s home and office.

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