FORT KENT, Maine — A years-long case of alleged misuse of funds against two members of the Wesget Sipu tribe was settled out of court with a filing last week by the Aroostook County District Attorney.
The case alleged Carrol Theriault and his wife, Judy Theriault, had committed “theft by obtaining or exercising unauthorized control over money, property of Wesget Sipu Inc.,” in excess of $1,000, and using those funds for personal expenses, according to the indictment filed with Superior Court in Caribou in June of 2012.
The two were charged with theft by unauthorized taking.
At the time of the alleged misuse of funds, Carrol Theriault was the tribe’s chief and his wife was acting bookkeeper, according to the couple’s attorney Ted Smith of Smith Law Offices in Van Buren.
Personal expenses alleged to have been paid with tribal funds included insurance payments, groceries and heating fuel from 2006 to 2010.
“These allegations cover a period of time when Judy [Theriault] served as a temporary bookkeeper,” Smith said this past week. “This was not a job she wanted, but it ended up she was the one keeping things together [and] when no one else would do it, she filled in.”
When Carrol Theriault experience health problems in 2009, Smith said, the then-chief asked his vice chief Donat Cyr to step into the leadership position on a temporary basis.
Not long after, according to Smith, Cyr — who is the current Wesget Sipu chief — met with law enforcement personnel and alleged the Theriaults had misused tribal funds.
“We had our day in court and could account for the expenses,” Smith said. “It was a two-day trial, and none of this came easy to clear their names.”
The case was prosecuted by Aroostook County Assistant District Attorney James Mitchill and efforts to reach him in Friday were unsuccessful.
Smith said that before he could present a motion in court to dismiss the charges early last month, the assistant district attorney “saw the writing on the wall” and filed the case, ordering the Theriaualts to pay $300 in court fees and Judy Theriault make restitution of $267 for an expense not associated with tribal business.
That check, Smith said, was the result of an honest mistake and not any attempt of his client attempting to steal tribal funds.
“This was a well-deserved resolution,” Smith said. “I can’t stress enough there were politics involved in this between the old and new guard in the tribe.”
Reached by phone on Friday, Cyr said the decision to file and dismiss the case was not made in consultation with him or members of the tribe.
“This was not settled by the Wesget Sipu,” he said. “It was settled by the district attorney without our knowledge or consent.”
For her part, Judy Theriault is happy the three-year case has come to an end.
“This has caused us a lot of anxiety and sleepless nights,” she said last week. “It has definitely affected Carrol’s health.”
She said the case has also caused division within the tribe and even among family members.
Since the legal action, the Theriaults have severed all connection with the Wesget Sipu, Judy Theriault said.
“This makes us very sad,” she said. “But we have good friends behind us and that supported us”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled the Aroostook County assistant district attorney's last name as Mitchell. It is Mitchill.