Restitution lowered for co-defendant in theft of tribal funds

Posted Oct. 11, 2011, at 6:15 p.m.
James Parisi of Portland leaves federal court in Bangor on Monday, April 27, 2009.
James Parisi of Portland leaves federal court in Bangor on Monday, April 27, 2009.

PORTLAND, Maine — The restitution owed by the co-defendant of former Passamaquoddy Gov. Robert Newell of Indian Township was lowered Tuesday by nearly $136,000 at a hearing in U.S. District Court.

James Parisi Jr., 50, of Portland still will have to repay more than $1.5 million to the federal government.

In July, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated one of the counts of which Parisi was convicted in November 2008 following a jury trial. His co-defendant, Newell, was convicted of 29 counts, including conspiring to defraud the U.S., misapplication of government funds, fraud and lying to federal agencies.

Parisi was convicted of 11 crimes, including conspiracy, misapplication of tribal and federal funds and lying to federal agencies. The men’s crimes are all related to the use of restricted federal funds awarded to the Passamaquoddy Tribe from 2002 to 2006.

The 1st Circuit upheld Newell’s conviction and restitution order for about $1.7 million but lowered Parisi’s restitution after vacating his conviction on the one count.

Newell and Parisi conspired by misapplying approximately $1.7 million that had been awarded for tribal programs, according to the 29-page ruling made public in July.

The pair also diverted funds from the tribal employees’ retirement account. Court documents also stated that Newell used the restricted federal funds and the funds of the tribe’s Indian Health Center to benefit himself, his family and other tribal members with whom he curried favor. Newell used many of these restricted funds to provide approximately $1.6 million in general assistance to tribal members during 2006, his last year in office, according to the documents.

Parisi was sentenced in April 2009 to a year and a day in prison. He was released on April 9, 2010.

U.S. District Judge George Singal, who sentenced Parisi, lowered his restitution by $135,800 at a brief hearing Tuesday.

Parisi’s attorney, George “Toby” Dilworth of Portland, said in a telephone interview after the hearing that his client is working but his income is limited. Dilworth estimated that Parisi has paid about $1,000 in restitution.

Newell was sentenced to five years in prison. He remains incarcerated in a federal facility in Waymart, Pa. He is scheduled to be released in September 2013, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

BDN reporter Sharon Kiley Mack contributed to this story.

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