The Investigators

Apr 24, 2014 1:02 AM by Tom McNamara and Michel Marizco

Hia-Ced tribe's finances under criminal investigation

Last summer, a new tribe of people here in Southern Arizona was recognized after being believed extinct. But within months, leaders of the small tribe have been stripped of their powers amid accusations of financial crime received by the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

The Hia-Ced District is the newest group of people to be introduced into the Tohono O'odham indian nation. They were declassified as a tribe more than a century ago, virtually labeled extinct by the u-s government.

Christina Andrews was, up until last week, the district's chairwoman.

"We have been homeless for about 80 to 100 years. Our lands were taken away, were colonized, about one hundred years ago."

Andrews traces her roots back to Tom Childs, who built among the first mines in Ajo, Ariz.

The name Hia-Ced means The Sand People. Always a nomadic tribe, its boundaries started in the West Desert around Ajo and ran all the way down to Rocky Point and as far as California. The descendents were incorporated into the Tohono O'odham Indian Nation, last June.

That's when the trouble began.

Andrews was named chairwoman of the Hia-Ced last year. Within six months, the Tohono O'odham Police Department opened a financial crime investigation into the Hia-Ced District.

"The financial crimes unit is investigating us. That's all I know," Andrews said.
She says police raided her district offices in January. A tribal government report obtained by the News 4 Tucson Investigators shows that the tribal chair ordered a forensic or fraud audit of the new group's finances.

Much of that money comes from casino revenues that is supposed to be doled out to the people within each of the districts.

But Andrews herself, accuses the Tohono O'odham government of seizing funds illegally. The tribal government moved the Hia-Ced's funds into its own accounts at a bank in Tucson earlier this spring, records show. Andrews says that money was about $1.2 million.

"There's four hundred people of which that money is to serve. The nation put a stop to it and they put a stop to it without giving us any reason why," she says.

Last week, Andrews and three other members of the Hia-Ced District government were ousted from office. She says, she doesn't know if she faces arrest or any criminal charges.

The Tohono O'odham Legislative Council, which made the decision to oust Andrews said three Hia-Ced District voters filed removal accusations against the district council's elected officials.

"In accordance with the Nation's Constitution, a majority of the Tohono O'odham Legislative Council found four Hia-Ced District Council members guilty and removed them from office. Charges against two additional officials were dismissed," the legislative council said in a statement.

Meanwhile, as the financial investigation continues, the Hia-Ced will vote in a new governing body this Saturday.

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