Minneapolis, MN (AP) – Joel Pourier (Pine Ridge Sioux), the former head of Oh Day Aki Heart of the Earth Charter School, has been charged with embezzling over $1.3 million from the school.
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Pourier, 39, of Shakopee is charged with eight felony counts of theft by swindle during his tenure at Oh Day Aki Heart of the Earth Charter School.
An audit performed in 2007 revealed missing invoices, unexplained money transfers and undocumented expenses. A school employee blew the whistle on Pourier in July 2008, leading to an investigation of the alleged embezzlement.
Pourier allegedly presented himself to the school’s board of directorsas qualified to take over as executive director of Oh Day Aki, whichwas facing financial trouble in 2003. Authorities say Pourier liedabout his background when he told the school board that he had an MBAfrom Chadron State College in Nebraska. The investigation found hedidn’t attend Chardon nor does he have an MBA degree.
The investigation also revealed fund transfers and checks deposited tosix Wells Fargo bank accounts in Joel Pourier’s name, and or other bank accounts with links toPourier. Cancelled checks and transfers from August 2003 through July2008 indicate Pourier embezzled over $1,380,000.
Some of the checks he wrote to himself included memo lines to make themappear related to legitimate educational expenses; including a checkfor $18,345 for “speech and therapy”, another for $21,567 for “Thompsonand West”, and one for $24,650 for “Deutshe Bank & Trust”. Theinvestigation also says he hide the theft by making Automated ClearingHouse (ACH) funds transfers; including one for $61,183 in July 2007which was listed as “reimbursement to Gap”, and another one for $47,689in January 2008 listed as “reimbursement for loan”.
Authorities say Pourier also forged board members’ signatures when more than one signature was required.
Investigators say some of money also went to a cleaning company thatnever existed and was pocketed instead by Pourier to fund his lavish lifestyle, including expensive cars and pricey houses.Records show he owns three homes: one valued at $667,000 in Shakopee(purchased in Dec. 2006), another at $205,000 in New Prague, and a third house worth $320,000 in Minneapolis(purchased in Dec. 2005).
When asked about his lifestyle, Pourier told people he was members of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux tribe that owns MysticLake Casino. But officials with the Mdewakanton Sioux Community saidthat Pourier was not an enrolled member.
Oh Day Aki charter school had over 200 children enrolled when it wasshut down last summer due to Pourier’s theft of the school’s money. Theschool was established in 1971 and devoted to the education of AmericanIndian children. It became a charter school in 1999. During his tenure,the school routinely did not have enough money to finance field trips,supplies, computers or textbooks for students.
Employee checks also began bouncing and medical insurance premiums were not paid.
Along with these theft charges, authorities in Dakota County sayPourier is set to go on trial this fall on charges of criminalvehicular operation for a hit and run. He was also charged withdomestic assault in Scott County.
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s office arrested Pourier on May 29 at ahome in Prior Lake. Poirier’s attorney Tom Sieben says his clientmaintains he is not guilty and they’ll be able to prove it in court.
Pourier is being held in the county jail on $25,000 bail.