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Case Number: 1:21-cr-00106
Judge: Robert J. Jonker
Court: United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan (Kent County)
Plaintiff's Attorney: United States Attorney’s Office in Grand Rapids
Defendant's Attorney: Heath Lynch
Description: Grand Rapids, Michigan criminal defense lawyer represented Defendant charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud causing losses to the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of over $1.1 million.
Chester Randall Dunican, 69, of Fort Pierce, Florida, was indicted for his role as the leader of a conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
“Every member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians was impacted by this fraudulent scheme,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. “Instead of using the funds for the benefit of all tribal members, Dunican and his co-defendant, attorney Britan Douglas Groom, lied to the tribe and used the money for their personal benefit. Mr. Dunican’s conduct is particularly egregious given that he served in a fiduciary capacity as the Chief Executive Officer of the Tribe’s economic development corporation. My office is committed to holding fraudsters fully accountable for their crimes, especially those that exploit a position of public trust.”
Dunican pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. From December 2015 to December 2016, Dunican served as the CEO of GTB LLC, a tribal entity focused on the development of economic opportunities for the benefit of all members of the Tribe. Dunican represented to the Tribe that he obtained exclusive distributorship rights with a proprietary water filtration company, R.O. Distributors, and that the Tribe would benefit by investing in R.O. Distributors and leasing water coolers that used this proprietary technology to various businesses in Michigan and Florida. In reality, R.O. Distributors was a shell company created and controlled by Dunican and Groom.
The Tribe invested nearly a million dollars in R.O. Distributors. Dunican directed other individuals to send most of the Tribe’s investment to another shell company, Evergreen Distributors LLC, before that entity transferred over $700,000.00 of the proceeds to the personal bank accounts of Dunican and Groom. Dunican then told the Tribe that he expected the business to grow and needed additional funding to continue acquiring inventory. When the Tribe resisted, Dunican told the Tribe that a company named High Sierra Distributors, LLC, acquired R.O. Distributors and that High Sierra was a multi-billion-dollar business that could expand the water filtration business nationwide. Dunican asked Groom to recruit someone to pretend to be a corporate representative of High Sierra at a meeting with the Tribe to pitch the additional $2 million in funding. Groom recruited a friend from Illinois who did attend the meeting pretending to be a corporate official of High Sierra. Shortly after the meeting, and before any additional funds were distributed, the Tribe discovered that this individual was actually a schoolteacher form Illinois, uncovered the fraud scheme and fired Dunican.
“Mr. Dunican and his co-defendant stole money earmarked for investment opportunities, the income from which is designed to provide various forms of assistance to members of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians,” said Devin J. Kowalski, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “His behavior was an affront to those who trusted him to act in the Tribe’s best interest and is precisely why the FBI works with our partners to investigate those who knowingly defrauds organizations and bring them to justice.”
“Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) and our law enforcement partners are diligent in unraveling the fraudulent actions of those, such as Chester Dunican, who scheme to defraud victims,” said Charles Miller, Special Agent in Charge of IRS-Criminal Investigation, Detroit Field Office. “Today’s sentencing is a reminder that there are detrimental consequences for this type of criminal behavior.”
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Detroit Division, Lansing, and Traverse City offices. The FBI was assisted by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians Tribal Police Department and the IRS Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Ronald M. Stella prosecuted the case.
18:1349 ATTEMPT AND CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT FRAUD; conspiracy - wire fraud
Outcome: Defendant was sentenced to 78 months custody, 3 years supervised release, fine waived, restitution of $1,124,292.68, and $100.00 special assessment.